Low-intake dehydration, due to insufficient beverage intake, is common in older people and associated with increased mortality and morbidity. We aimed to document the drinking patterns of older adults living in long-term care and compared patterns in those drinking well with those not drinking enough. One-hundred-and-eighty-eight people aged ≥ 65 years living in 56 UK long-term care homes were interviewed and hydration status was assessed in the Dehydration Recognition In our Elders (DRIE) study. In 22 DRIE residents, the Fluid Intake Study in our Elders (FISE) directly observed, weighed and recorded all drinks intake over 24 h. Twenty percent of DRIE participants and 18% of FISE participants had low-intake dehydration (serum osmolality > 300 mOsm/kg). Mean total drinks intake was 1787 mL/day (SD 693) in FISE participants (2033 ± 842 mL/day in men; 1748 ± 684 mL/day in women). Most drinks intake was between meals (59%, including 10% with medications). Twelve (55%) FISE participants achieved European Food Safety Authority drinks goals (3/6 men drank ≥ 2.0 L/day, 9/16 women drank ≥ 1.6 L/day). Those drinking well were offered beverages more frequently and drank more with medications and before breakfast (beverage variety did not differ). Promising strategies to support healthy drinking include offering drinks more frequently, particularly before and during breakfast and with medication.