May 14, 2010

Keeping The Love Alive: The Magic of Water

I've found that giving my mom some water can work wonders. The act of drinking water stimulates her dehydrated brain to wake up. She forgets why she was yelling. She feels calmer. She's happier.....
By Sheryl Lynn
Alzheimer's Reading Room

I always sensed I'd someday be a caregiver for my mom. I don't know why that was. My parents' parents demonstrated only slight memory loss before suddenly dying of strokes or heart attacks when I was a child or a teenager. None of their aunts or uncles died of dementia. My mom's older brother was the first family member on either side of my family to receive a diagnosis of Alzheimer's. I don't know why I did this, but I began storing information I'd hear about dementia when I was 29 years old.

Geriatric care specialists have crossed my path for years. I'd meet them on airplanes, in meetings, in offices, and in seminars. I'd ask them questions, or they'd start conversations with me. They were angels sent to me to prepare me for what I am dealing with today. I trust you've had your own angels sent to you.

The best caregiving tip I've learned first appears to be too simple to work. Just because it's simple doesn't mean it's not truth. When I first heard this tip during a seminar given in 1991 designed to prepare children to care for their aging parents, I was tempted to throw it out. I probably would have forgotten it that day if it weren't for the lecturer first telling us, "If you only remember one thing from this seminar, this should be it." That introduction made me pay attention.

Here's what came next: "Remember to give your Alzheimer's patient enough water throughout each day. The brain can dehydrate if it isn't given enough water, and you'll likely see a difference in your loved one's behavior before and after giving them a drink of water."

And probably because the speaker phrased it in that way, the only thing I remember today from attending that seminar is what you've just read.

We often forget, even if we don't have Alzheimer's, to keep hydrating ourselves. And because we forget, we often experience more fatigue, more trouble remembering things, more trouble walking, more headaches, more constipation, more muscle cramps, more changes in our blood pressure, more trouble with our urinary tracts, more dry skin, and more hunger. Yes, hunger. Try this idea next time your loved one begins chanting the "I'm hungry" mantra; give them some water. We often confuse hunger for thirst, and when we give more water instead of more food, Mom or Dad just might feel satisfied a little longer before resuming the chant.

Please don't take my word for it. Experiment with yourself before experimenting with your loved one. Do you notice a difference in how you move through your day when you make it a point to deliberately drink more or less water?

I've found that giving my mom some water can work wonders. The act of drinking water stimulates her dehydrated brain to wake up. She forgets why she was yelling. She feels calmer. She's happier. I see her suddenly able to focus on and often even retain what I am saying to her.

When I was a child, I wondered why my grandfather started each day by drinking a cup of warm water. I learned later in life that drinking warm water at least 30 minutes before breakfast often gently stimulates a bowel movement. I now love drinking warm water with a generous squeeze of fresh lemon juice. It tastes good, it warms me up on cold days and my body feels purified after drinking it.

Adding some fresh-squeezed lemon to your water helps alkalize the body. Many who drink water with a good-sized spritz of fresh lemon juice report experiencing somewhat less discomfort from their arthritis or rheumatism. No promises are being made here, but it might be worth trying.

Are you worried about incontinence? Or is your loved one worried about incontinence? You might try giving sips or small amounts of water more frequently. It helps to be creative in the way we play the game.

Giving my mom more water throughout each day is one of the cheapest, simplest, and most effective caregiving tips I've learned. I hope it works as well for your loved one.

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Sheryl Lynn is the author of the upcoming book "The Light Is A Thank You," which chronicles the spiritual journey through dementia she has taken with her mother, Eleanor. She is the host of "Glow With The Flow Radio Show," currently on hiatus.

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Original content Sheryl Lynn, the Alzheimer's Reading Room