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I’m Thirsty … and I Can’t Tell You

I’m Thirsty … and I Can’t Tell You


Sometimes, people with dementia or Alzheimer’s  may be unable to recognize that they’re thirsty, or may find themselves unable to communicate their needs to caregivers. Other times, they might simply forget to drink. This can lead to dehydration.

Dehydration can cause a number of conditions, including  headaches, increased confusion, urinary tract infection and constipation.  According to the U.K. Alzheimer’s Society, which provides fact sheets on myriad topics pertaining to the disease,  these effects can increase the  symptoms of dementia.

As we age, the feeling of being thirsty changes, which is why some people might not be aware they need a drink. This can apply to those with Alzheimer’s as well. Some people with Alzheimer’s might also have difficulty getting drinks for themselves, even if they do recognize that they’re thirsty.

Caregivers can help by reminding people with Alzheimer’s and dementia to drink throughout the day. A U.K. Alzheimer’s Society fact sheet on the topic of dehydration recommends that people drink at least 1.2 litres daily.

Remember though: just  putting a drink in front of someone, doesn’t mean they’ll finish it. And if a cup is empty, that doesn’t guarantee the person finished their drink. It might have been spilled, poured out or finished by someone else.

Here are some more tips for caregivers:

When the person is eating, make sure to have a drink handy.

Choose the right glass: Use something clear, so the person can see what’s inside, or draw their attention with a brightly colored cup. Make sure it’s not too heavy or hard to hold.

Offer the person the cup or make sure that they can see it.

Describe the drink:  What is it and where is it?  That way, if the person has a visual impairment,  they can still find the drink.

Offer both hot and cold liquids throughout the day.

High-fluid foods, like gravy, jelly and ice cream, are helpful.

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