Dear Donna-

With the heat of a Michigan summer upon us, I am struggling with an issue I face every year. That is, my dad just won’t drink much water. I am his primary caregiver and we have this back and forth battle every summer.

When we are outdoors and I try to remind him to drink more water, his response is always the same: “But I’m just not thirsty!”

What can I do to prevent him from becoming dehydrated?

Kind Regards,



Preventing Dehydration in Seniors during Summer

Dear Kristina:

Like you, we’ve heard that question more times than we can count from adult children and family caregivers. Keeping seniors hydrated is a common theme among them.

If you’re trying to convince your father to drink water and you’re meeting with resistance, you’re not alone. In fact, that’s a very common excuse among older Americans.

It may be more than just an excuse, however. It might be the truth.

Reminding your father to drink water might not work if forgetfulness isn’t the problem. Since you’ve taken the time to write for help, I’ll assume you’ve told your father how important it is to drink water but it hasn’t done much good.

Let’s break this down and see where the problem lies. Then, we’ll list a few strategies for keeping your father hydrated, especially as summer comes into full swing.

Why Seniors Sometimes Don’t Drink Enough Water

In any situation where there’s friction between two people, it helps to consider the other point of view. From your father’s perspective, certain physiological changes related to the aging process could be playing a role in his behavior.

For instance, did you know that the aging changes in the way the body perceives hunger and thirst?

Researchers have long since discovered that, as people age, their desire to drink water seems to decline. That’s supported by scientific evidence, which shows that older adults’ brains respond differently to thirst. This may explain why keeping seniors hydrated can be challenging.

A study from the University of Texas Health Science Center showed that people in their 60s and 70s had different brain activations than people in their 20s when it comes to experiencing thirst.

That could explain why some older adults respond to dehydration by drinking even less water. The neurons in certain regions of the brain are simply sending the wrong signals.

So, when you father says he’s simply not thirsty, he may just be telling the truth. He doesn’t feel thirsty but the fact of the matter is, his body is plenty thirsty.

Strategies for Keeping Seniors Hydrated

A simple, frank discussion can have lasting, positive effects in your situation. It’s possible that when your dad understands the physiological changes you’ve just learned about, he’ll be able to override his senses and drink more water.

You can also make fluid intake a little more satisfying.  

Here are some techniques for keeping your dad hydrated this summer:

  • Prepare a pitcher of water to store in the fridge. Colder water is sometimes more appealing.
  • Try putting some flavor into the water: lemon wedges, lime packets, orange slices, or flavor packages from brands like Crystal Light, which offer flavor without the sugar.
  • Suggest that he drink eight ounces of water whenever he takes medication.
  • He might like hot water or decaffeinated tea flavored with honey.
  • Eating foods with a high water content —think cucumbers, lettuce, melon, berries and soups —- can help hydrate the body.


Consult a Physician

Considering your Dad’s perspective can help you understand the situation more fully. At the same time, however, it’s also important to rule out any health issues. If your father continues to avoid drinking water, talk to his doctor.

Some seniors don’t want to drink water — or any liquid, for that matter — because it means more trips to the bathroom. Decreased mobility and fear of falling in the bathroom may be factors here. Your dad’s doctor may be able to help with mobility issues.

You might feel frustrated with your dad, but try the tips I’ve just outlined. With more fluids in his body, he’ll be better off both physically and mentally. That’s an outcome that works for everyone!

Staying hydrated is small but important part of overall health for seniors. Here at Heritage Senior Communities, we’re concerned about every aspect of the health of our residents. It’s all part of the Heritage Difference.

If you’d like to learn more about our assisted living senior community, we’re always happy to talk or show our visitors around. Call us anytime!