Tuesday, May 30, 2023
You know very well the importance of drinking lots of water and remaining well-hydrated. You personally can’t leave the house without your water bottle and you make sure to drink regularly. But despite your best efforts, you just can’t seem to get your elderly father to drink more than a sip at a time. He says he already had lots to drink, but with his dementia, that isn’t always accurate.
How can you get your father to drink more fluids?
Switch up the Options
While plain old water may be the healthiest option, sometimes it just isn’t exciting enough to entice someone to improve their hydration habits. Try flavouring water with fresh fruit or vegetables. Water with lemon and lime, or cucumber slices, or strawberries may offer some flavour and also be visually appealing.
Herbal teas are a good option for flavour, without adding sugar. Many herbal teas can be enjoyed either hot or cold and provide a nice alternative to plain water. Providing fluid options that contain sugar or additives may not be as ideal, but it is still better than being dehydrated. If your father won’t drink anything but soda, try watering it down a little to reduce his sugar intake.
Pour Small Glasses
It may seem counter-intuitive to pour small amounts if you’re trying to get someone to consume more liquid, but it can be effective. A huge glass of water may feel insurmountable. A small glass at a time may seem manageable.
With a small glass, you can suggest refills regularly. When there is still liquid in the glass you can say: “oh, let me freshen that up for you. But don’t waste it—finish it off and I’ll get some more.” Appealing to the desire to not waste anything can be highly effective. Most seniors do not like to waste anything, even water!
Try a Straw
For some people, drinking through a straw is easier and will result in drinking more than if they took sips from a cup. In fact, the very reason fast-food places serve soft drinks with a straw is that studies proved people will drink more when sipping from a straw. If it’s enough to boost sales for McDonald’s it may be enough to help your father improve his fluid intake too!
For those who have dementia, rationalizing why they should drink more will not be effective. Tapping into an automatic response and reflex can be highly effective though.
Every time you take a drink from your glass, reach out your glass and say “Cheers!” Most people will pick up their glass to clink yours and follow it with a sip. In many cultures, it’s considered rude to not take a sip from the glass after clinking “cheers”. Someone with dementia may not recall that you’ve already said “cheers” repeatedly over the past hour. Not only will they benefit from increased fluid intake, but they will also benefit from the positive association with saying “cheers” and feeling connected to you.
Encouraging greater fluid intake can have important impacts on your loved one’s health. Be sure to share any additional strategies you’ve tried and let us know which of the above strategies is most effective in your family!
Lissette Mairena Wong
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