Dementia Care: Creativity to Quench Thirst

dementia care

Dementia care should always be approached in a highly personalized manner because each person’s preferences, dislikes, abilities and history are unique.  Every plan of care should be tailored to the individual so success can be achieved.  In this blog, we discuss the challenges that one living with dementia may face with hydration requirements and explore creative approaches with heartwarming success stories.  Let’s unlock positive possibilities within the art of encouraging hydration in dementia care.  

Let’s first talk about the multifaceted reasons individuals with dementia may face inadequate hydration.  They could be experiencing one or a combination of the factors listed below.  Discovering challenges has a direct impact on achieving success.

Physical limitations:  Mobility issues can create dependence on others for obtaining beverages.  If someone is thirsty, but they are not able to get a drink on their own, this can lead to poor hydration.  They may require physical assistance to bring the glass to their mouth or they need adaptive equipment.

Swallowing disorders:  This can make it difficult for all of the beverage to be consumed because it may fall out of the mouth, or it could be uncomfortable to swallow.  See our blog on dysphagia to learn if your loved one is exhibiting symptoms of a swallowing disorder.

Cognitive decline:  The person may not remember that they need to drink or remember when they last had a drink.  They may not recall where to find a drink, the steps involved to prepare a drink, or the path to get there.

Changes in sensation:  A change in smell or taste may decrease one’s desire to drink.  They could also have a change in a sensation for appetite and thirst where they no longer feel thirsty.

Difficulty communication:  Someone may struggle to understand cues to drink, or they may not be able to express that they are thirsty.  Receptive and expressive aphasia can result in poor communication.

Side effect of medication:  Altered taste can be an unpleasant side effect of some medication.  Medication can also have a side effect of dry mouth contributing to dehydration.


Creative Approaches

Create a routine – encourage fluids at the same time throughout the day, use the same cup so it becomes familiar, and offer hydration in the same area such as at the dining room table

Engage with reminders and cues –  say “let’s get you a refreshing drink” or use a communication card that shows someone drinking from a cup

Presentation – offer drinks in cups that are visually appealing or add a piece of fruit to water (if this is a choking hazard, use a cup that has an inner chamber that contains the fruit)

Address swallowing concerns – add a thickener, use a straw, or use a special cup if this has been recommended by the healthcare provider

Socialization – sit down and enjoy a drink together to make it a social event

Enhance the environment – play soft music in the background and limit distractions

Check the temperature – some people prefer to drink beverages that are iced, room temperature or warm so find your loved one’s preference

Positivity and praise – acknowledge with a “great job” when sips are taken to create positive association with drinking


Heartwarming Stories

“She always loved fruit flavored candy” –  Mrs. “Smith” was no longer interested in drinking…anything.  Her daughter found it difficult to maintain her mother’s hydration needs.  With a history of urinary tract infections, her daughter was worried dehydration would cause another.  We talked about Mrs. Smith’s life and what she really enjoyed.  Her daughter said she would always have a bowl full of fruit flavored candy on her kitchen table, whether it be jelly beans or gum drops.  They were her favorite.  This is when I suggested that she try Jelly Drops.  Mrs. Smith’s daughter found these successful in addressing her mother’s hydration needs.

“He used to drink 4 cups of coffee every day” –  The spouse and primary caregiver for Mr. “Jones” said he was recently hospitalized for dehydration, and she was struggling with encouraging him to drink water.  As we discussed his brilliant career and his dedication to work, I learned that Mr. Jones was an avid coffee drinker, but he could no longer drink it because of GERD.  I recommended that she try filling his favorite coffee mug with water.  One week later she called and said, “he’s drinking several glasses of water every day, I can’t believe it”. 


These stories represent the significance of personalizing dementia care.  Taking the time to learn about someone’s history, assess their abilities, and their routine is what creates success.  By including a bit of creativity into our approach, we can turn sips into wins, ensuring thirst is quenched for those navigating the path of dementia.  Looking for a customized dementia care plan for your loved one?  Connect with us!