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Keywords:

  • aging;
  • dehydration;
  • risk factors;
  • prevention

Dehydration is a frequent etiology of morbidity and mortality in elderly people. It causes the hospitalization of many patients and its outcome may be fatal. Indeed, dehydration is often linked to infection, and if it is overlooked, mortality may be over 50%. Older individuals have been shown to have a higher risk of developing dehydration than younger adults. Modifications in water metabolism with aging and fluid imbalance in the frail elderly are the main factors to consider in the prevention of dehydration. Particularly, a decrease in the fat free mass, which is hy-drated and contains 73% water, is observed in the elderly due to losses in muscular mass, total body water, and bone mass. Since water intake is mainly stimulated by thirst, and since the thirst sensation decreases with aging, risk factors for dehydration are those that lead to a loss of autonomy or a loss of cognitive function that limit the access to beverages. The prevention of dehydration must be multidisci-plinary. Caregivers and health care professionals should be constantly aware of the risk factors and signs of dehydration in elderly patients. Strategies to maintain normal hydration should comprise practical approaches to induce the elderly to drink enough. This can be accomplished by frequent encouragement to drink, by offering a wide variety of beverages, by advising to drink often rather than large amounts, and by adaptation of the environment and medications as necessary.