Many of us are not fond of drinking water, but when our loved one with dementia avoids drinking water it can be extra challenging in the warmer months, especially for those of us that deal with the intense Texas heat.

5 Ways to Help a Senior with Dementia Stay Hydrated

Most of us recognize the feeling of thirst, and it naturally leads us to reach for liquids for rehydration. But the sensation of thirst in our loved ones with dementia can be something they no longer recognize, and they may not be able to express how they are feeling when they are thirsty.

A recent report published in the National Library of Medicine indicates that dehydration is common in elderly patients, with it occurring in up to 17% to 28% of older adults in the United States. The elderly population is also 20% to 30% more prone to develop dehydration, largely due to immobility and impaired thirst mechanism, which is often compounded by aspects such as diabetes and other overlying diseases, as well as medications.

While these statistics are rather alarming, dehydration is easily preventable.

Here are 5 ways that you can help your loved one with dementia stay hydrated:

1. Routines

Encourage new hydration routines and habits by prompting frequent sips of water – or any hydrating liquid that your loved one enjoys.

Set a schedule on paper, on a whiteboard, or on the phone, to remind your loved one regularly that it is time to hydrate.

Encourage your loved one to drink liquids whenever they eat.

Remember, routines promote a sense of having more control in life, which supports the formation of healthy habits, and encourages the individual with dementia to maximize their physical and cognitive abilities – making an impact on health, wellness, and overall quality of life – and sleep (learn more about sleep problems with dementia here)!

2. Foods that Hydrate

Diet can be a helpful piece in increasing hydration. Include foods in the diet that have high water content, such as melons, berries, celery, cucumber, leafy green vegetables, tomatoes, peaches, and apples. Encourage the eating of these foods at mealtime, but also as healthy snacks.

3. Appealing Liquids & Avoid Caffeine

We all know that water is the best choice for hydration, but sometimes it can feel impossible to get our loved ones to take a sip – much less, drink it regularly. So, consider enhancing the water to make it more appealing. Add lemon slices, cucumber, or berries, or mix in pre-packaged drink enhancers, which are available in a variety of flavors in many grocery stores.

You may need to get creative to get extra fluids into the diet. A good starting place is to limit caffeine intake. Liquids that do not contain caffeine hydrate much better than caffeinated drinks. If your loved one insists on drinking coffee and iced tea, consider switching them over to decaffeinated brands.

Related: Dementia and Diet

Fruit juices and smoothies that contain fruits, vegetables, and dairy products are a great way to boost the diet and increase hydration.

Consult with the physician first, but electrolyte-boosting drinks might also be a healthy and effective option for your loved one to prevent dehydration and electrolyte loss.

4. Cups, Tumblers, and Drinking Aids

What about that glass or mug that you ‘must’ use when you are sipping your favorite beverage? It doesn’t change the flavor of what you are drinking at all, but it feels much more appealing in your mind. Consider providing a drinking vessel for your loved one that is easy to use and can make drinking liquids something special.

Consider a colorful tumbler that can hold ice water with lemon slices, or any enhanced (or not) beverage, with a lid to keep the beverage cold, along with a straw.

Ensure the container is not too heavy, and try using no spill cups or tumblers, as well as tumblers with caps that stabilize straws and keep the beverage cold.

5. Keep Cool and Comfortable

In hotter weather, it is critical to keep your loved one with dementia as comfortable as possible in a cool area and dressed for the environment. In warmer conditions, loose-fitting clothing made from natural fabrics, or materials that promote evaporation, will help to keep your loved one’s skin temperature lower. Minimalize the time spent outdoors during the hottest part of the day and encourage the wearing of light-colored clothing that reflect the sun’s rays rather than absorb them (as dark colors can).

Signs of Dehydration

Some of the signs and symptoms of dehydration are also common to dementia, such as confusion or fatigue. It is important to have a baseline knowledge of your loved one’s behaviors and to note any drastic changes.

The top signs and symptoms of adult dehydration include:

  • Extreme thirst
  • Less frequent urination
  • Dark-colored urine
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion

The onset of severe symptoms that require immediate medical care include:

  • Rapid heart rate
  • Drop in blood pressure
  • Increased trouble moving or walking
  • Increased disorientation
  • Fainting
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea, black stool, or constipation
  • Severe muscle cramps
  • Loose skin that does not return to normal after pinching
  • Signs of urinary tract infection – frequent urination with less volume, darkened or cloudy urine, pain or discomfort while urinating, increased confusion, and fever.

If you notice a sudden worsening of symptoms or behavior, immediately take your concerns to your loved one’s medical team. The medical team will rule out dehydration, urinary tract infection, and other illnesses, and will review all medications to prevent dehydration.

Are you considering Memory Care for your loved one with dementia? Learn more about the Sundara difference!

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