Preventing Dehydration In People With Dementia

An estimated 850,000 people in the UK have dementia, according to the NHS. It’s a growing problem that comes with a whole host of other health and safety concerns for individuals living with the disease. One of these is hydration, as people with dementia often drink less than they need to for a number of reasons, including forgetting that they haven’t had a drink, having physical problems with drinking, and becoming confused about how to get themselves a drink. Fortunately, there are several steps loved ones can take to help prevent dehydration in those with dementia.

Friends, family and technology

People with dementia who live with loved ones are less vulnerable than those living alone because they have a spouse or other family members who can ensure they’re hydrated and cared for in general. Spouses are often a great source of care and support, but for people living alone after the death of a loved one, using technology can help families to stay connected and take care of a relative with dementia. Setting up cameras around the home of a parent with dementia and connecting it to your phone can help you to monitor how much they’ve had to drink. For example, if a glass of water is left next to them untouched throughout the day then the parent can be phoned and reminded to drink it. Home hubs and mobile phones can also be used to set up reminders throughout the day to prompt drinking.

Using visual reminders

Visual reminders placed in obvious places can be a great way to remind people with dementia that they need to drink. Leaving full water bottles around the home can prompt them and make sure that the drinks stay fresh. Daily visual schedule boards that prompt the person with dementia to do things at certain times of the day can include having a drink. Images usually work better than words as there’s a stronger association between an image of a cup or a glass and the need to drink compared to just the words. Even better, taking a photo of their own cup and printing it out to use on a board will further help with the association.

Dealing with other problems that dementia presents

Dementia is known for memory loss, but it often comes with many other symptoms, such as confusion, forgetting how to do simple tasks, and mood changes. All of these have the potential to present a problem when it comes to staying hydrated. Some people can struggle with swallowing, forget how to get themselves a drink, or even forget where their cups are kept. Medical professionals are always a good place to start with getting help and support, but there are things that family members can do too. Having someone visit the person with dementia a few times throughout the day to make them a couple of drinks can ensure that they are drinking a minimum amount a day. Having carers do this can help to take the pressure off family, and they’ll usually have dementia training.

What works for one person with dementia may not work for another, and different approaches may need to be used with the same person over time as their dementia changes, so it’s important for loved ones to be open-minded and adaptive when it comes to preventing dehydration in people with dementia.

By Jess Walters

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