Dear Donna:

My 76-year-old father moved in with my family earlier this spring. He was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s just over a year ago and isn’t safe living alone any longer. I’m slowly learning how to work around the changes the disease has caused and to improve his health and quality of life.

I’ve come up with some activities that allow him to feel productive despite his Alzheimer’s, such as helping me around the house and in the garden. When he was living alone, he skipped a lot of meals and lost a considerable amount of weight. While I’ve found ways to encourage him to eat, I’m still struggling to get him to drink water.

Dad’s doctor told me he was dehydrated during his last appointment and that I need to encourage him to drink often throughout the day. I think the underlying issue is my dad seems to be afraid of water. Does that happen with Alzheimer’s? My husband helps him with his showers and said it’s becoming increasingly difficult.

Do you have any advice for us?


Kristie in Sutton’s Bay, MI

Water, Hydration, and Alzheimer’s Disease

Dear Kristie:

What a great observation! It is fairly common for a person with Alzheimer’s to develop a fear of water. Water-related tasks, such as filling a glass of water or showering, can result in anxiety and agitation. Just the sound of water running can cause fear. But it’s obviously very important that your dad stays hydrated, which can be even more difficult during the summer.

Here are a few suggestions that might be helpful:

  • Be mindful when you fill his water glass: If your dad has developed a phobia about water, it might help to fill his water glass when he isn’t within hearing range. Add lemon, cucumber, or berries to the glass for a bit of a distraction. Using a dark-colored glass might also be helpful in disguising the water.
  • Provide frequent reminders: Since people with memory loss may forget to drink water, prompting them to drink throughout the day might help. Don’t wait for your dad to say he is thirsty. Just tell him it’s time for a drink. It might help if you drink water while encouraging him to do so.
  • Serve foods that hydrate: Also remember that many fruits and vegetables have a high water content. This makes it easier for adults with Alzheimer’s to increase hydration. Leafy greens, melon, berries, tomatoes, celery, cauliflower, and cucumber are just a few. Soup and broth are other good choices.
  • Review his medications: Some medications have a diuretic effect that can increase the risk for dehydration. Talk with your dad’s pharmacist to determine if any of his prescriptions or over-the-counter medications might be an issue. If you find one that is, ask his primary care doctor for advice on how much fluid he should be taking in to compensate for it. There might even be another medication that can be substituted.

I hope a few of these tips are helpful to you, Kristie! Best wishes to you and your dad.

Kind regards,


Dementia Care at Heritage Senior Communities

If someone you love has Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia, our Specialized Dementia Care program might be a solution. From person-centered care to guided social interactions, the program is designed to allow people with dementia to live their best quality of life. Call the closest Heritage community on this list to learn more!