SUMMARY

Sensitivity to thirst is reduced in the elderly as the receptors responsible for thirst regulation become defective with age.

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Reduced sensitivity to thirst may cause dehydration in elderly

Dehydration in elderly is not uncommon.

Some research shows that the elderly drink less water (including more palatable beverages) after a period of water abstinence. Drinking less water is a result of diminished sense of thirst. (1, 2)

In the elderly, the receptors (osmoreceptors, baroreceptors and opioid receptors) responsible for the regulation of thirst are not as effective as in young people. With age these receptors may become defective or undergo some changes resulting in a decrease in thirst response. (3)

This leads to

Common symptoms of dehydration in increasing order of severity are: increased thirst, vague discomfort, decreased appetite, dry mouth, loss of concentration, headaches, sleepiness, tingling sensation and numbness of hands and feet and possibility of collapse.

It is, therefore, advisable to get the elderly to learn to drink water regularly even if they are not thirsty, in order to avoid dehydration. (4)

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