Hydration causing confusion

this image shows the sign saying "think Drink"

Confusion in the elderly caused by dehydration

Following on from my earlier article about encouraging elderly people to drink more fluids. This is important as the weather warms up.

Confusion in the elderly is often caused by one of the following situations,

  • Dementia or other memory loss
  • Medication
  • De-hydration
  • Urine infection

This article is focussing on confusion caused by dehydration.

From the age of 60 years, there is little more than 50% water in the body. This is part of the natural  process of aging. Therefore, the elderly have lower water reserves and another complication: even dehydrated, they feel no desire to drink water, because their internal balance mechanisms do not work very well.

If  living alone, it can be difficult to monitor their intake of fluid. One solution is when visiting to ask “what have you had to drink today ?” and also to leave a glass of water in the most used rooms. A notice on the fridge simply saying “drink more”.

Elderly people are less likely to drink water, so tea and other drinks are better than nothing and foods containing a high water content such as juicy fruits are good too. In the winter months watery, thin, soups such as consome are ideal to increase fluid levels and the summer ones, ice lollies, ice cubes and ice poles can help.

To detect whether an elderly person is dehydrated, simply gently pinch the skin on the back of their hand. If it doesn’t spring back, the likelihood is they are a little dehydrated. Severe hydration is a medical emergency and to be avoided at all costs.

When visiting a loved one in a residential environment or hospital setting “Think Drink” and ensure a drink is within reach and offer help with this if need be. Don’t wait to be asked as the elderly person may not do so!.

this image shows the sign saying "think Drink"



Award-winning blogger and former care columnist for Devon Life magazine. I am passionate about helping elderly people and people with dementia live purposeful and independent lives.
Designer of the Dementia Assistance Card and Points Of Light award recipient, Caron hopes to help carers when resources are limited and demand is ever-increasing. I am here to support you.


  1. Confusion for individuals with dementia through dehydration is often missed or seen as a behaviour issue for the staff. Dehydration is a major cause to urinary tract infections and we know that this increases behaviour, this causes behaviours when the person can not communicate to tell the staff that they are in a confused state of mind or that they are indeed thirsty. Staff will need to learn to recognise distress behaviours that the person is showing to be able to diagnose the cause.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.