Dementia water hydration! Tough situation for many caregivers. How to get your loved one to drink more water? Read on to find information, tips and a list of suggested foods to help keep your loved one with dementia hydrated.

glass of water with slice of lemon in it sitting on table beside a cut lemon

Why Water is So Important

I never really drank much water until I started working out and was told by multiple people to drink more water. Since then, I have come to understand how much water does for us.

As water is good for us, it is also important for people with dementia.

Water helps us in so many ways –

  • It supports cardiac function

  • It supports cognitive function

  • It circulates our blood

  • Aids in digestion

  • Removes waste

  • Lubricates our joints

  • It keeps our skin healthy and not dry

  • Regulates our body temperature

  • Transports nutrients

Recognizing Dehydration signs in your loved one with dementia

As a caregiver of a loved one with Mild Cognitive Impairment or Alzheimer’s it is important to know some signs of dehydration and what to look for. Like these –

  • Muscle cramping

  • Nausea

  • Dizziness

  • Headaches

  • Dry skin

  • Bad breath

  • Dry mouth

  • Sunken eyes

  • Dark color to urine

  • Tiredness

  • Confusion

Dementia Challenges to Drinking Water

Left on his/her own, a person with dementia faces some hydration challenges.

You and I know when we are thirsty and we know how to quench our thirst.

A person with dementia does not.

Think about it. There are a lot of steps involved in getting a glass of water. Do they know the location of the glasses? Do they even remember what a glass is, what it looks like and that a glass holds a liquid? Do they know how to turn on a faucet to get water? 

Here’s another challenge. Water can look invisible to some people with dementia. If they have a clear glass with water in it are they even able to tell that it has water in it?

Other challenges –

  • They may be unable to communicate to you they are thirsty

  • They may not be able to get a drink by themselves

  • They may not feel thirsty

  • They may forget to drink

  • They may outright refuse to drink

  • They may have difficulty swallowing

Hydration Strategies for Dementia Patients

So, how do you get your loved one to drink more?

You can try things like this –

  • Use a colorful, attractive cup/glass

  • You might have to try different colored glasses to see which color works as far as getting your person to drink

  • Use a straw in a glass/tumbler or an adult sippy cup like the ones listed below or bottles with reminder lights or movement

  • Offer fluids with a meal

  • Offer a variety of fluids throughout the day (see below for water alternatives)

  • Leave a bottle of water on the counter or close to them

Hydration Schedules

Getting a routine of regular hydration times is a good idea.

There are some other ways you can increase the intake of water.

You can –

  • Have your loved one drink water upon waking up

  • Try getting them to drink something at least once an hour

  • Remember to have some variety of liquid with a meal

  • If you go outside somewhere, encourage a drink when you return home

  • Encourage them to drink a whole 4-6 oz when they take a pill

  • There are water bottles that will light up & vibrate to remind people

Water Alternatives

What can you do if your loved one doesn’t like water?

Offer them alternatives –

  • Fruit juice (although watch the sugar level)

  • Vegetable juice

  • smoothies

  • milk

  • Herbal teas

  • Coffee, tea (in moderation and no sugar added)

  • Seltzer or club soda

  • Coconut water

  • Fruit-infused water (you can add fruits and herbs to ice cubes)

  • Applesauce, jello, yogurt, popsicles, ice cream

  • Broth based soups (watch the salt content)

Foods with high water content

If getting more water by drinking alternatives doesn’t work, you can intentionally cook with more food items that are high in water content such as –

  • many fruits

  • many vegetables

  • offering a variety of liquids other than water

If you’d like a more complete list of foods with high water content, then click in the box below to get a list.

Caregiver Self-Care

Caregivers – you also should be regularly hydrating.

Remember – self care is just as important. You can’t take care of your loved one if you don’t take care of yourself.

Additional considerations

Consider external factors that will play into the need for water such as hot weather and physical activity. Air conditioning as well.

Some medications may increase the number of bathroom trips so you will want to adjust fluid intake accordingly.

Hydration Concerns

Be sure to consult medical doctors if you have any concerns about your loved one’s water intake or your own. 

As I said above, you can’t take good care of your loved one if you don’t take good care of yourself.