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10 Signs Your Loved One with Alzheimer's Disease May Not Be Well Hydrated

Many caregivers, particularly those caring for a loved one in the later stages of Alzheimer’s dementia, know full well what a challenge it can be to get a person with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) to eat and drink enough each day.  If you are worried about insufficient fluid intake, here are 10 early signs and symptoms to be aware of.

Factors That Indicate You May be Underhydrated

-Dark yellow urine
-Reduced urine output
-Dry skin
-Excessive hunger
-Weight gain
-Excessive thirst
-Dry mouth
-Frequent headaches
-Chronic fatigue

Brain Function and Inadequate Fluid Intake

In the body, the brain uses more water than any other organ because it contains 20% of the circulating blood at any given time.  Brain cells contain 85% water. Adequate fluid levels are required for proper nerve transmission in the brain.  Water is also required for the production of neurotransmitters.  Nerve transmission requires 50% of the brain’s energy.  When fluid is depleted, the brain does not receive the proper supply of energy. Dr. Corinne Allen, founder of the Advanced Learning and Development Institute stated, “brain cells need two times more energy than other cells in the body. Water provides this energy more effectively than any other substance.”  Lack of adequate fluid hydration in the brain has been linked to problems with focus, memory, headaches, insomnia, and even depression. 

Daily Fluid Needs

The Institute of Medicine determined that an adequate intake of fluid for men is roughly about 13 cups (3 liters) of total beverages a day. The average intake for women is about 9 cups (2.2 liters) of total beverages a day.  A recent Mayo article states, “Generally, if you drink enough fluid so that you rarely feel thirsty and your urine is colorless or light yellow — and measures about 6.3 cups (1.5 liters) or more a day if you were to keep track — your fluid intake is probably adequate.”
Dark Colored Urine

The color of the urine is the most visible sign of inadequate (or too much) water intake.  When the kidneys receive adequate fluid intake, the toxins and wastes are well flushed, resulting in pale (or transparent) yellow urine. Scant urine output indicates there may not be adequate levels of fluid intake.  This could also be a sign of a serious kidney problem, be sure to report these symptoms to the attending physician. 


Dehydration causes the brain tissue to lose vital water which results in loss of adequate blood supply and oxygen to the brain.  In response, the blood vessels of the brain dilate causing slight swelling.  In turn, this can result in a headache.

Excessive Hunger

When your loved one with Alzheimer’s is underhydrated, it can have an adverse effect on the hypothalamus in the brain, causing the body to confuse thirst for a sense of hunger.  The body gets a significant amount (approximately 20%) of fluids from foods, so when it’s accustomed to not getting enough fluid from ingested liquids, it may crave the next best method of getting the much-needed compound.

Lack of Energy

While there are various origins of low energy level and fatigue, lack of adequate fluid intake could be one cause.  Lack of proper hydration level could cause the body to decrease blood circulation.  The blood carries oxygen to the tissues and when blood circulation slows down, oxygen levels to the muscles and cells decreases.  This can result in a lack of energy and lethargy.

If you are concerned about your loved one with AD not getting enough fluid, be sure to check with the attending physician and perhaps consult with a dietician. 

Learn about Alzheimer’s prevention and check out our free 25 lesson course, designed specifically for Alzheimer’s caregivers and those in the early stages of AD by CLICKING HERE.

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