The importance of staying hydrated for people living with dementia

  • Older woman with drink
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Dementia Tas
Ros Calvert, Dementia Consultant
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Up to 60 per cent of the human adult body is made up of water. Therefore it is extremely important to stay adequately hydrated, and especially so during the warmer summer months. 

Failing to recognise signs of dehydration puts people living with dementia at a greater risk of experiencing a negative outcome for their health and wellbeing.  The first sign of a person starting to experience dehydration is a thirst for fluid – yet often people with dementia do not recognise the thirst sensation, which increases their risk of continuing to go without fluids.

(More information: Hydration and Delirium)

 

Strategies to assist a person living with dementia to stay hydrated

It may be necessary to prompt the person to drink water frequently throughout the day.  This can be done by pouring them a glass of water and giving it to them or offering them a drink while you are having one yourself so they can copy what you are doing. If the person with dementia lives alone, a phone call to prompt them to drink may work.  Drinks can also be left out on the table so they are easy to see and find.

Use a dark-coloured drinking glass – if the person has a fear of water, then a dark-coloured drinking glass helps to disguise the water. 

Offer foods that hydrate, such as fruits and vegetables that have a high water content. Watermelon, cucumber, tomatoes, apples, and berries are a few examples. 

Flavouring water with mint sprigs or lemon slices may appeal more to a person living with dementia.

Drinking a full glass of water when taking medications is another good way to ensure the person is getting enough fluids.

Also, you can put the person’s name on their glass so they can see it can also be a prompt that the drink belongs to them.

(Adapted from: 5 Ways to Prevent Dehydration When a Senior Has Alzheimer’s)

 

It is important for drinks to be consumed throughout the day, but they may be decreased after 2pm so the person does not have to wake too often during the night.

Cordials and tea may also be counted as fluids, as well as jelly, ice cream and custard.  However, too many cups of coffee throughout the day is not a good idea, due to the diuretic properties of coffee.  It is much better to substitute some of them for water.

When dehydration hits, it can lead to headaches, constipation, problems with thinking and concentrating, and fatigue.  It can also lead to serious health issues.

If you require assistance on developing strategies to help someone living with dementia, or have any questions on dementia, contact Dementia Tas on 03 6277 8807 or check out our website.

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