Dehydration: Hazards and Benefits

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Dehydration is a serious risk for elders because total body water decreases with age, aging kidneys are less able to concentrate urine, and the sensation of thirst decreases. Geriatric nurses traditionally have assessed for dehydration, but its signs are difficult to detect in many patients. Instead, nurses, assistive personnel, and family members must work to prevent dehydration in elders. In contrast, dehydration may be beneficial to patients during the final stage of a terminal illness, although the decision to withhold or withdraw medical hydration may present a legal and ethical dilemma for nurses.

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