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  • Writer's pictureMiriam Green

The Color of Water

Mom doesn't like to drink water. I'll hand her a glass, and when she takes a sip, she invariably says, "Uch. It's tasteless." Water is tasteless and colorless. My guess is that Mom doesn't really see the water. Her perception has been altered by her Alzheimer's.

Drinking water is essential to our overall health. It flushes out unwanted wastes from our bodies. It aids in the prevention of constipation. It keeps us from experiencing headaches and pains from dehydration. And it helps alleviate possible urinary tract infections. It is important to stay hydrated, especially in the hot summer.

There are many alternative drinks to water. Unfortunately, most of them are filled with sugar. So in order to keep Mom drinking, we've developed a few tricks.

  • Buy low-sugar soft drinks in a variety of flavors. Mom's favorite is lemonade.

  • Make your own drinks (see recipe below).

  • Dilute the flavored drink with at least half a glass of water.

  • Hand Mom a glass of drink. Don't wait until she is thirsty. She might not be able to tell you she wants (or needs) a drink.

  • Keep drinks in the refrigerator. A cool, refreshing drink is like a treat on a hot day. Add an umbrella or a straw for effect.

I met up with my parents at my niece's wedding this past Sunday night. It was a wonderful joyous celebration. When my niece was young, Mom was her ersatz grandmother. She'd include her in all the games and songs she sang with her own grandchildren, give her cuddles and kisses, and delight in her sweet gentleness.

Mom was confused by the number of empty glasses at each place setting. At one point, when we came back from dancing with the bride, I noticed that Mom had three glasses sitting in front of her, including one of mine. Two were filled with lemonade. The third, mine, with water, was pushed to the side untouched.

Mom's disinterest in water extends to showering, too. On most mornings, Mom showers without assistance. What she refuses to do, however, is wash her hair. I haven't figured out what it is about the water that repulses her, if she is afraid or just uncomprehending, i.e., forgetting how to wash her hair, but she refuses to place her head under the water. What most of us think of as an enjoyable experience, Mom detests.

We have tried numerous tricks to get Mom to wash her hair. Sometimes what works one week won't work the next. But we keep trying. We tell ourselves that it's only social convention that suggests hair must be washed regularly. It's really not so bad if it's dirty. Here are some of the things we've tried.

  • Always start with a song. "I'm gonna wash that man right out of my hair," from South Pacific, is a perfect starter.

  • While Mom is in the shower, tilt her head back and gently wet her hair with your hands to show her it's not so bad. Do the same to rinse the shampoo out. (Make sure you don't mind getting wet—shower water has a way of running down your arms and into the sleeves of your shirt.)

  • Use a hand-held shower nozzle so that Mom has control over where the water squirts.

  • Wash Mom's hair in the sink in the afternoon, and do your own at the same time in solidarity. Pretend you are at a salon.

  • Write out a note from your "doctor" that says hair must be washed at least twice a week.

  • If modesty is an issue, pretend you're going to the beach and wear a bathing suit or long t-shirt in the shower.

I've read that positive reinforcement—praise and kind words or even the promise of a present at the end of the ordeal—can sway an Alzheimer's patient. We'll have to be more active on that front.

If Mom, despite our best efforts, is still intransigent, we drop the issue. Tomorrow is another day. We can all live with dirty hair.

After I saw the movie, Supersize Me, I stopped buying sugary drinks. Coke, sprite, lemonade, caffeine free or not, even orange juice, it all got dumped out of our house. We began drinking only water. And for special occasions, we made our own lemonade from the tree in our yard, and iced tea with flavored tea bags. The kids grumbled at first, but I felt we were doing the right thing.

Home-made Iced Tea

My husband Jeff has perfected the recipe for this most popular drink. We make two versions: one with sugar, and one with sugar substitutes. Play around with the amount of sugar until it meets your needs.

5 tea bags (1.5 gram, any favor)

¼ cup lemon juice

¾ cup sugar or 6 tablets of sugar substitute (saccharine/sucralose/stivia/etc.)

2 liter/quart water


Steep five tea bags (1.5 gram, your choice of flavors) in hot water for at least 30 minutes. In a 2-liter bottle, dissolve sugar or sweetener in one liter of water. Add lemon juice and steeped tea and shake/stir. Fill remaining space in bottle with additional water. Serve cold.

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