Preventing Dehydration in Loved Ones With Alzheimer's Disease

If you are a caregiver of someone with Alzheimer's disease, you want to provide the best care possible for your loved one. This includes making sure they are staying hydrated. Many people with dementia have trouble recognizing that they are thirsty or accessing water to drink.1,2

Why hydration is important

Hydration is essential for people of all ages. But as we grow older, our bodies become less efficient at regulating fluids. Dehydration occurs when the body loses more fluids than it takes in. This can lead to the organs not working as they should.1,2

Research shows that dehydration is the most common reason behind fluid and electrolyte imbalance among older adults. For people with Alzheimer's disease, cognitive decline can make it harder to recognize and respond to thirst.2

How dehydration affects people with Alzheimer's disease

Dehydration can affect people with Alzheimer's disease in several ways.

Worsened symptoms

When the brain lacks enough fluids, it has a harder time transmitting messages. This leads to confusion and memory problems. Being dehydrated can also make a person more agitated and irritable. And it can make it harder to complete everyday tasks.1-3

Higher risk for urinary tract infections (UTIs)

UTIs are more common in people with Alzheimer's disease. Dehydration makes them even more likely to occur. UTIs are caused by bacteria entering the urinary tract. It is a common condition, but it requires treatment. Staying well hydrated is crucial in preventing these infections.4

A person with Alzheimer's disease may not know they have a UTI, or they may not be able to communicate their symptoms with you. A common first sign of a UTI in someone with Alzheimer's disease is a sudden change in mental state – confusion, agitation, or disorientation. Though these are also symptoms of Alzheimer's disease, if you notice these symptoms suddenly getting worse, contact their doctor as soon as possible.4

Headaches and other health problems

Dehydration can result in headaches, constipation, and other health problems. It can also lead to more serious complications, such as kidney issues and low blood pressure, which are especially concerning for older people.1,2

Tips to prevent dehydration in those with Alzheimer's disease

Doctors recommend drinking 8 to 10 full glasses of water every day. There are lots of ways you can help your loved one do this. Some of these tips might work better than others. Be patient, and see which ones work best for you both.1

  1. Encourage sips throughout the day – Instead of trying to get your loved one to drink a large glass of water all at once, encourage them to take small sips often.
  2. Make sure the cup is easy to hold – Make sure the glass they are using is something they can easily lift and is not too awkward to hold.
  3. Keep to a schedule – This may include designated times when you offer beverages. Every few hours or morning and evening – you choose what works best for you.
  4. Offer their favorite drinks – Your loved one might have specific preferences for beverages. Some might prefer ice water. Others may enjoy juice or herbal tea. Respect their choices while also making sure that their preferred options are hydrating.
  5. Stock up on hydrating snacks – Keep hydrating foods like whole fruits and vegetables in the house and readily available for snacking.
  6. Keep track of how much they are drinking – Document the number of glasses your loved one drinks during the day.
  7. Make hydrating meals – Soups, stews, and smoothies can help with their overall fluid intake.

Do what you can

Caregivers play a vital role in preventing dehydration for loved ones with Alzheimer's disease. But it can be challenging. Be patient and gentle in encouraging your loved one to drink. Do what you can to make sure they stay hydrated. If, after trying the above techniques, you are still having a hard time getting your loved one to drink, talk with their doctor.

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