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  • Writer's pictureMiriam Green

Drink, Drink, Drink

It amazes me how easy it is to manipulate Mom by using her Alzheimer’s. I rely on her non-existent memory to help her do things I want her to do. Today, when my husband Jeff and I visited Mom, I could see that her mouth was very dry, so I brought her a cup of water.

Mom took one sip and said, “That’s water. Uhg. I don’t drink water.”

“Oh, okay,” I said, retrieving the cup.

Less than a minute later, I handed her the water again and told her, very enthusiastically, that I had brought her a cool, refreshing drink. She took it from me, thanking me for my kindness. And then she drank it without complaint!

This is one of the perks of the disease, namely, using Mom’s memory loss as a way to distract her. It must be used judiciously and for her benefit as it conveys a power on the caregiver that has the potential to be abused. That’s why I don’t always feel happy knowing I’ve manipulated Mom. But I do understand that it is a positive tool in a caregiver’s arsenal.

I heard a recent account of a woman who, when trying to distract her husband from wandering, would tell him there were cookies in the kitchen. He would turn and immediately head in that direction; by the time he found the kitchen, he would have forgotten both his desire to wander and his search for cookies.

Why is it so important that Mom drink extra water? Dehydration of the residents is a constant issue in nursing homes. Mom’s is no exception. She drinks a little at breakfast, lunch and dinner, and has two “tea” breaks where she receives either tea or Ensure. That’s it. Even if she’s thirsty, and can identify that as a feeling, she doesn’t know to drink on her own. Often, when I arrive for a visit, I can see how pursed her lips are, how white spittle has built up in the corners of her mouth.

What this most effects is the amount and quality of Mom’s urination. One of the first signs of dehydration is concentrated, dark yellow urine. This dark urine is the body’s way of increasing water intake and decreasing water loss. Healthy urine is usually pale yellow. There’s also the accompanying and overwhelming ammonia smell of Mom’s urine due to lack of enough fluids.

My worst fear is that Mom will contract a urinary tract infection (UTI). UTIs are caused by bacteria from the digestive tract entering the urethra. Not drinking enough can increase the risk of UTI because it reduces the amount of urination, and urination helps clear unwelcome bacteria from the urethra. The last time she had one, Mom suffered from chills, aches and pains, fever, and an increase in irrational Alzheimer’s behavior. She had to take several rounds of antibiotics before we got it under control. She spent days in bed utterly exhausted and disoriented. I truly thought we had lost her then, that she would never recover her beautiful smile or equanimity.

As we head into spring and summer, as the weather heats up unpredictably in this season of transition, it is all the more important to provide Mom with extra liquid. If she won’t drink the water, no matter how many times I offer it to her, I can add juice to it to give it flavor. The important thing is to drink, drink, drink.

Passover begins next week, which means that we’ve started cleaning our house from top to bottom. I’m trying not to go overboard this year. I’m trying to clean just the essentials. Ha ha ha ha! I’m also trying to figure out what dishes to make for our Passover Seder which we’re celebrating with dear, dear friends this year. Here’s a roasted cabbage that is easy to make and elegant to behold. Kitniyot* not included.

Roasted Purple Cabbage

I truly love the beauty of this roasted cabbage. Easy, elegant, and slightly crunchy, too.

1 head purple cabbage, sliced

1-2 Tbsp olive oil

2-3 cloves garlic, crushed

Salt and pepper to taste


Preheat oven to 420° F / 200° C. Slice cabbage in 1” thick slices, including the stalk. Place on baking tray. In a small bowl, combine oil, garlic and spices. Brush each cabbage slice with oil mixture. Bake for 20 minutes.

*As Wikipedia explains, “Kitniyot is a Hebrew word meaning legumes. During the Passover holiday, however, the word kitniyot takes on a broader meaning to include grains and seeds such as rice, corn, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, soybeans, peas, and lentils, in addition to legumes." Jews of Ashkenazi descent do not eat kitniyot on Passover. Sigh.

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