Is it a normal part of the aging process for the elderly to not be able to realize they are thirsty?

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I believe it's fairly common for aging people to have a poor thirst instinct. They also dehydrate faster than younger people, so it's important to encourage fluid. As mentioned, a medical problem could be at the bottom of the issue, or even a medication, so a doctor should be consulted. However, it's quite possible this is from normal aging.
Carol
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It is possible yes. There could be a medical problem causing it such as dementia, or even medication. You haven't given much information regarding the circumstances of the person.
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Hi Punkin....btw one of my dogs is named Punkin :) I know how difficult it can be to get some of the elderly to drink fluids. Understanding the thirst mechanism and how it works might be helpful..

Once a person "feels thirsty" he or she is already dehydrated. The way to turn on the thirst mechanism is to get the person to start drinking more water then increase it for example; say they are only drinking 1 glass of water a day (really bad) start having the person drink 2 glasses a day for 3 days then go up a glass and repeat this process until you get to 8 glasses a day (for normal bodily functions). This is really hard to do for even most people but once your body starts to get used to replenishing the water it needs it will start to kick in the thirst mechanism more frequently. Another example of this is say you drink 4 glasses of water a day and you know you should drink more... start drinking 5 and after a week or so of doing this you will notice that when you have only had 4 glasses of water all of a sudden you will feel thirsty.. then increase it by another added glass and repeat until you get to a minimum of 8. On average our bodies use a minimum of 8 glasses of water a day just by going to the bathroom, perspiring and breathing and that's not including exercise. Drinking plenty of water is so important to good health, it cleanses the vital organs, helps to remove toxins, helps to cleanse the blood and helps to metabolize our food intake and regulates good healthy bowels. I hope this information is helpful to you.

Cricket
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My dad has dementia & does not recognize when he is thirsty or hungry. Yet if I put food or drink in front of him, he will eat. See if this works. I also give him a big glass of water when he takes his pills. Good luck!
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