November 30th, 2010 at 3:12 am
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Watching Your Loved One’s Fluid Intake Vital Task for Caregivers

by Carol Bursack

During my mother’s last month’s of life, she continually complained to me that the nursing home staff was always pushing liquids. Mom’s appetite was poor, and had been for quite awhile. The staff at the home was concerned about Mom’s weight loss, but they were less pushy about food than fluids. I tried to tell Mom how important it was that she drink plenty of fluids, but she’d wrinkle her nose and say she didn’t want more. Thus, preventing dehydration was a constant battle when caring for Mom.

A fellow caregiver, who has a daughter with very severe disabilities, unable to speak and mostly without cognitive ability, spent a great deal of time and effort teaching his daughter how to show him when she was thirsty. With great patience, he taught her to reach out and make a drinking motion. Some people may not see this as a huge accomplishment, but it may be one of the most important things this man has taught his daughter to do. While he still checks her regularly to see if she’s thirsty, and will offer her a drink if he feels thirsty himself, he now has at least some guide as to whether his daughter is in need of fluids more often on a particular day.

I, unfortunately, have always had a poor “thirst indicator,” and I’m told that won’t get better with age. My parents pushed liquids when I was a child but I didn’t drink as much fluid as I should have for good health. As a more educated adult, I’ve tried to drink enough, but still often just forget about it.

However, I am at least aware that I need to drink more water and am working on training myself. For some reason, I rarely experience thirst, but an article on the Alzheimer’s Association Web site, titled It’s as Simple as a Glass of Water, made me sit up and take notice. Author Esther Trepal, RD, MS, CDN, who is writing about people with Alzheimer’s writes: “Because the signs and symptoms often mimic dementia, dehydration can be easily overlooked. You know your person with dementia the best and will likely be the first to notice changes in how they behave or appear. Some of the signs and symptoms of dehydration are dry mouth, low urine output or dark yellow urine, constipation, lethargy, fatigue, headache, muscle weakness, dizziness, lightheadedness, confusion, or rapid breathing.”

The article reminded me that something as simple as offering someone a drink of water, juice or other fluid can fix a headache, give someone more energy, and perhaps even help the recipient think more clearly. Please read, It’s as Simple as a Glass of Water to get a good grasp on how important fluids are to everyone’s health. If I’d read this earlier, I don’t think I would have let Mom off as easily as I did.

Posted in Alzheimer’s, Diet, Health | 2 Comments »

2 Comments to “Watching Your Loved One’s Fluid Intake Vital Task for Caregivers”

  1. So, there are two of us, Isabel? Yes, remembering to drink the water is good. Just pouring it doesn’t help. I lure myself with a slice of lemon in it sometimes. Drink up!

  2. Don’t think that your Mom would have let you off easily, either, even if you’d known. She sure sounds a lot like my Mom! :-)

    Sad to say, I am thrilled to know another person in this world whose “thirst indicator” is off the charts like mine has always been. I so understand, though I wish I didn’t. Thanks for a great blog and timely reminder, Carol.

    Think I’ll go pour myself a glass of water! Maybe I’ll even drink it. Sure would be nice.


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