My father is dehydrated and refuses to drink the water the doctor recommended. I don't know what to do.


My 91 year old father lives with me and he has become very dehydrated. The doctor told him he must drink 8 glasses of water a day. My father did this for 1 day and now refuses to drink that much water any more. He will have water when he takes his pills in the morning and the evening and maybe a few sips during the day to add up to about 16 ounces of water a day. His stools are all watery and I am afraid he is losing all his water. I can't make him drink. Can I be responsible for elder neglect by just letting this go? I don't know what to do.

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G2 or Powerade have electrolytes to help hydrate without the sugar of regular gatorade. Pedialyte in the baby isle is also good and comes in popsicles or bottles. My dad has dementia & fights me on the drinking, but is always happy to get a popsicle! As long as it has no caffeine, alcohol and is low sugar go for it. Don't worry about cancer-causing sucralose in my dad's doc's opinion. By the time your 85 like my dad or 91 like yours there honestly isn't time for it matter. It takes years & years to develop into cancer, dehydration can kill in days or weeks. Keep up your spirits and try to enjoy your time with him!
Helpful Answer (1)
Reply to Shelbyloren

TNtechie, Thanks for mentioning how to check the skin for dehydration.

There are lots of good suggestions regarding how to encourage someone to drink fluids.

rocketjcat, Thanks for mentioning about that "Dixie cups of ice cream count as a fluid". Anything that is a liquid at Room Temperature is considered a "liquid" and is counted as such by nursing homes and hospitals.

So Strauberrygirl, there are several ways to give your father liquids other than just water. You can count anything that melts or becomes a liquid at room temperature, such as yogurt, ice cream, pudding, Jell-O, etc.
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Reply to DeeAnna

Just an Moms NH they count everyone’s fluid intake. I was surprised to find out that the Dixie cups of ice cream count as a fluid. So maybe there’s more ways than just water to increase his fluid intake.
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Reply to rocketjcat

Most people who are not active do not really need 8 glasses of water to remain hydrated. We lose a certain amount of our body's fluids breathing in dry environments but you can reduce that with a cool air humidifier. If your father still has good skin you can test for dehydration by gently pinching/pushing the skin on his hand or forearm together and then letting go. With good hydration, the skin fold immediately falls back to normal. With dehydration, the skin is slow to return. As long as your father passes the skin test and is making urine, he is most likely hydrated enough.

Diet Rites sodas are sweeten with splenda and come in a wide variety of flavors (cola, orange, grape) and have 0 sodium. My grandfather loved them when he was on a salt restricted diet.
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Reply to TNtechie

Some thoughts for alternatives to plain water: home made lemonade with nominal sugar; hard to find but juices w/o additional sugar, or at least nominal sugar (and no substitutes like sucralose; some of these replacements were linked to cancer years ago).

Extra water in prepared dishes, such as soups. Food with high water content, juicy foods, but be careful as the really juicy fruits like watermelon and pears can cause diarrhea.

Mom used to make popsicles of fruit juice. There's also stevia, a natural substitute for sugar, which could be used to sweeten plain juices so he could hopefully drink more of them.
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Reply to GardenArtist

Was your father seeing the doctor when the doctor told him that he must drink 8 glasses of water a day? Very few people can drink that much even if their life depended on it.

How long has your father been dehydrated? What was done to treat the dehydration?

I am concerned about your father's watery stools. Has he had a solid bowel movement in the last 2-3 days? What color is the watery stool, is it fairly clear or does it look like diarrhea with small chunks of solid stool? Does your father complain of any abdominal pain or cramps?

The reason that I am asking these questions is that elderly people are susceptible to bowel obstructions or an ileus because the stool has gotten so hard (constipated) that it will not move through the large intestine or because the intestine is malfunctioning/not working like it should. If that is the situation with your father, then he needs to be seen by the doctor ASAP for abdominal x-rays as this can be a life-threatening crisis if the bowel ruptures.

If the only treatment for the dehydration that doctor ordered is for your father to drink 8 glasses of water a day, then you need to have your father re-evaluated and possibly hospitalized so that he can receive IV fluids. It sounds like your father's condition is much worse than what 8 glasses of water a day can fix.
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Reply to DeeAnna

No, this isn’t neglect and couldn’t be proven as such. It’s not like you’re withholding water. To be honest, I’m not a big fan of plain water either. We had a bottled water dispenser at our home for a while that dispensed cold, filtered water. That was the only way I’d drink it. 8 glasses of water a day can be daunting to a lot of people.

Pick up some “enhancers” like Crystal Light, Kool-aid, Country Time, etc. They come in little squeezable bottles and a few drops goes a long way. They’re not real juice, but the benefits of getting Dad to drink water would be worth it.
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Reply to Ahmijoy