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Water: Here’s to your health.

In Education, Health, Opinion, psychology, Religion, Science, Senior Lifestyle, Uncategorized on February 9, 2015 at 1:37 pm

DIH LOGOHi, I’m Gery and I’m a recovering soda-holic (or “pop”-aholic if you prefer). There was a time when I would drink a 12-pack of soda (generally Cherry Coke) within a couple of days. I was an addict – sugar and caffeine were my drugs of choice.

Since I come from a family with a propensity for diabetes, I’d have to guess that drinking that much soda would only push me closer to the Insulin fan club. But all of that changed for me when I was helping to care for my mother and discovered, first hand, the health-promoting properties of water.

My mother, Lois, had already been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s dementia when she broke her hip and entered a local nursing home for physical therapy. During her stay, her dementia symptoms seemed to worsen more quickly than anticipated.

Soon she more anxious and unresponsive and always seemed to be suffering from some kind of urinary infection. Most of these issues were waved away by the staff as “normal” for a medicated, bed and wheelchair-bound senior with Alzheimer’s disease. Not in my book it wasn’t.

I paid closer attention to her daily care and noticed that she rarely drank anything. Once in a while a staffer would fill a plastic hospital-style pitcher with water and place it on the night table. But that was all; they just sat it down and left.

By this time dementia had diminished Mom’s awareness of hunger or thirst and even if she had wanted a drink she wouldn’t have been able to get it herself. Unless I, or another family member, poured it for her, the water usually sat there, untouched.

Gery and his family used the green tumbler in the photo to measure the amount of water Lois Deer received. It was filled twice per day - apx 0.5 gallons total.

Gery and his family used the green tumbler in the photo to measure the amount of water Lois Deer received. It was filled twice per day – apx 0.5 gallons total. (Photo Copyright 2015 GLD Enterprises Communications.)

She seemed to get worse so we decided to take her home and care for her ourselves. First on the agenda was to increase her water intake to around a half-gallon a day. That may not sound like much but, since water makes up approximately 60-percent of a person’s body weight, at 78 pounds the volume was significant.

Mom was given water regularly throughout the day and at meal time. With proper hydration and more consistent, personalized care, her physical and mental health improved more than I can adequately express.

Alzheimer’s disease continued its rampage, but we cared for her full time until her death in 2011. Still, I am convinced that better hydration increased her quality of life over those last two years in ways no medication could have achieved.

I’ve also since learned we had been right about the relationship between her behavioral deterioration and dehydration. In seniors, dehydration can lead to serious health problems, such as constant urinary tract infections, skin deterioration, and even present symptoms such as confusion and behavioral changes, much like classic dementia.

Many seniors resist drinking water, but I couldn’t tell you why except there may be a generational component perhaps related to quality. My parents, for example, grew up in the Appalachian foothills of southern Ohio where most of the drinking water came from creeks and shallow wells where the water probably wasn’t too palatable.

While I was caring for Mom I nearly eliminated soda from my diet and quadrupled the amount of water. It was an acquired taste, to be sure, but now my glucose levels are much lower and I genuinely “feel” better. It may not seem like much but I consider this achievement significant, particularly since it was pretty much the only major change I’ve made.

I still have a Coke a couple of times a week (which I rarely seem to finish) but I’m convinced that more water has made all the difference in improving my overall health. Hopefully by starting now, I won’t be so hard to convince at age 70 when any level of dehydration could cause more serious problems.

As for how much you should drink, the typical recommendation for adults is 8 glasses of “fluid” each day. But there really is no precise amount. You’ll have to judge for yourself based on the needs of your own body. Either way, you’ll feel better.

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. Deer In Headlines is provided by GLD Enterprises Communications. More at gerydeer.com.

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