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Our body needs plenty of water to work. It lubricates the joints and eyes, aids digestion, flushes out waste and toxins, and keeps the skin healthy.

Dehydration happens when we don’t have enough fluid in the body.

If you are thirsty, this means you are already dehydrated. However, sometimes our sensation of thirst can reduce as we get older, particularly if you have had a stroke or have Alzheimer’s disease, so you may not realise soon enough that you are becoming dehydrated.

Watch this video

Watch this video to hear tips from Jean, Bev and Alf about how to drink well as we age.

Signs of dehydration

  • Feeling thirsty, lightheaded, tired or confused – this could cause you to feel unsteady on your feet and could increase your risk of tripping or falling

  • Dry mouth, lips or tongue

  • Passing urine less often than usual – this can lead to urinary infections and incontinence

  • Dark coloured urine (this can be affected by certain medications, see further details below)

  • Constipation

What can I do?

  • Have 6-8 drinks per day (200ml each – a normal cup or glass size). All hot and cold drinks count – you could keep a chart on your fridge to keep track

  • If you take medication, take with a full drink

  • Keep a water bottle with you and sip water continuously throughout the day

  • Have food that is high in fluid, such as ice lollies, jelly, creamy sauces, custard and extra milk on cereal

  • If you are worried about getting up in the night for the loo, don’t drink alcohol or caffeine close to bedtime and drink more earlier in the day

Worried about not making it to the toilet?

Many of us don’t drink as much as we should because we are worried that we might not make it to the toilet in time. If this applies to you, you should speak to your GP or a pharmacist who will be able to help you to manage this.

You can order a toilet card from Age UK, so you can discreetly let people know that you have to go. Order one here.

Dehydration - urine colour

For most people dehydration can be indicated by reduced and more concentrated urine output. As a general rule, the colour of urine can be a useful guide:

Urine that is odourless and pale in colour generally indicated good hydration
Dark smelling urine is a common symptom of dehydration

Dehydration can be recognised by the urine chart. There are a number of medical conditions and certain medications that can add colour to urine.

- Dark urine as a result of dehydration is usually an amber colour
- Dark urine due to other causes can be tinged brown or red

One way to tell if the dark urine is due to dehydration is to drink more and check if the urine changes to a lighter colour.

- Try drinking a variety of fluids - water, milk, fruit juice, teas and coffee all count
- Try eating foods with a high-water count such as soups, ice cream, jellies, cucumber and melon

If you are concerned about your urine being different to the usual colour for a prolonged period, you should see a GP.

Monitoring fluid intake is a good guide to ensure good hydration.