In the previous article, Dementia and dehydration, we have established the importance of hydration for our physical and mental wellbeing. The person you are caring for should be encouraged to have 6-8 glasses of fluids every day to prevent dehydration and its negative impact on the progression of dementia. However, we understand that it’s not easy to ensure the person you are caring for is getting enough fluids every single day.
First, it requires you to assess and understand the cause of their drinking difficulties. Are they due to physical issues, memory loss, swallowing difficulties or social barriers? By understanding the underlying cause of dehydration, you will have a better idea of the level of support and encouragement required. You’ll realise, as dementia progresses, achieving optimal hydration will need persuasion, patience and good communication. This article is there to help you prevent and cope with dehydration.
How to prevent dehydration?
Tips to encourage the person you care for to drink
Easy access to drinks: A person with dementia might not be able to recognise or communicate when they are thirsty so try to have a drink next to them at all times as every sip helps.
Frequency not quantity: Offer smaller drinks. Large volumes of fluids in one go can reduce the sense of thirst and cause uncomfortable bloating. This also gives you the chance to prompt them to have a sip.
Habitual drinking: You could start associating a daily activity with drinking water or other fluids i.e. after brushing your teeth, taking medication, gardening. At first it might be hard, but in the long-run they’ll almost expect to have a drink during those activities.
Provide variety: If the person isn’t keen on water, try adding a little flavoured squash to their water. Ask them if they would like a hot or cold beverage. Perhaps they would prefer milkshakes and smoothies or maybe soups.
Try hydrating drinks: If the person refuses plain water, try drinks like lemon water, coconut water, cucumber juice, aloe water, herbal teas, fruit infused water, or chia seed water. All of these are super hydrating drinks, helping the body in their own way.
Include water rich foods: If you feel the person you are looking after isn’t getting enough water, include fruits, vegetables and dairy products that have a high water content like watermelon, zucchini, or cottage cheese.
Social activity: Combining the right people with the right place and the right drink helps. If the person you are caring for likes to socialise, it is more likely they will drink fluids when they are enjoying the company of family and friends
Visual cues: Physical objects like water jugs can help prompt them to drink
Offer rather than ask: Try different phrases that encourage them to drink i.e. instead of saying ‘would you like’ or ‘ do you want’, try saying ‘I have made you’ – prompt don’t nag.
Use drinking aids right
Maintaining dignity: Cups, mugs or glass should be considered as the first choice. It’s important to encourage the person to use drinkware they and their family usually uses to help maintain dignity and the pleasure of drinking together in the same way. Drinking aids should be considered when the person you are caring for has a preference for it or is recommended by a healthcare professional (e.g. an occupational therapist)
The right cup: Check which cup is easiest for them to use and that they like the cup. Try out different shapes and sizes. Providing bendable straw, lidded and light-weight cups can make drinking easier as well. As the condition progresses, they might need your support to pick up or hold the cup.
Hydration aids: These can be particularly useful to maintain independence. For example, Ulla the smart hydration reminder, Droplet intelligent hydration kit or Water Jelly Drops are useful hydration aids.
Make hydration fun
Themes for each week day
Mocktail Mondays– Smoothie and mocktail making sessions varying the ingredients each time.
Teatime Tuesdays- Formal social drinking events for example themed tea parties using china crockery, picnics and celebration teas
Watery Wednesdays– Tasting sessions on water based drinks such as different types of teas, juices, squash, fruit teas or infusions.
Thirsty Thursdays– Making or tasting sessions for lollipops and milkshakes. Have a film afternoon with ice lollies and ice creams .
Fruity Fridays– Fruit bowl tastings. Different coloured fruit jelly making in shaped vessels making the jellies look like something else.
These themes and ideas are from <Add source>
Know their medications: There are some medications that are diuretics and can cause the person to become dehydrated faster. Therefore, understanding the side-effects and how the medication works can help you adjust their intake of fluids.
Provide accessible toileting: Ensure the person doesn’t fear incontinence and they have the right support in place to access and use the toilet (Could link to incontinence blogs)
Use breathable clothes: Choose clothes made out of cotton and linen that allow the person to sweat and naturally instead of polyester-based fabrics, rayon, and jeans.
Set up reminders: Having a reminder set, whether that’s on your phone or the fridge, can help both of you know when it’s time for a drink.
Adjust to the day/weather: If the person you are caring for is active outside in the heat or ill, make sure they take breaks and increase their consumption of fluids as heat can quickly reduce energy levels. Take more precautions during summer and during heat waves.
Choose non-alcoholic drinks: There are non-alcoholic beer and spirits that can be offered as an alternative to alcoholic beverages which cause dehydration. If the person is drinking alcohol, make sure to provide hydrating drinks along with it.
How to address dehydration?
Sometimes the above measures aren’t enough to prevent dehydration and you’ll need to act quickly to address it.
If you notice early signs of dehydration, offer a bottle of water, Gatorade, Powerade or coconut water to replenish their electrolytes quickly.
If you feel the dehydration is more severe, to contact your doctor. They will assess the extent of dehydration and based on that provide the person with electrolyte drinks or IV fluids.
We hope you found this article helpful. Do let us know in the comments section below on how you have dealt with dehydration.