About every six months, my 85-year-old mother Eleanor ends up in Urgent Care or the Emergency Room with extreme dehydration. On Tuesday night, she was again given two full liters of intravenous (IV) liquid. Dehydration is very dangerous and makes her dementia worse – it muddies her thinking and judgement and makes her act even more independent than usual. For the last four years, our family and caretakers have tried everything we can think of – including working our way through all of the ideas on web lists – to get her to take more fluids. She just does not want to drink.
Early Tuesday afternoon I got a call from the MedTech at my mother’s senior residence asking for help. After breakfast, Eleanor had pushed her way into another resident’s apartment, sat on his toilet and refused to leave. By the time I got there, she had been sitting for an hour – calmly saying “no, no, no, no” to everyone. She did not seem to be in pain. My mother said she was conducting an artist’s protest and planned to write a paper about the power of saying “no”. Eleanor has been a fine artist and politically active all of her life. She was a Professor of Art at California College of the Arts 1971-2001. Years ago, writing a protest paper would have been a normal activity for her.
Something in her mind told her that what she was doing made sense. Several caretakers tried sweet talking her while the owner of the bathroom threatened to call the cops to get her out. My husband John finally wrapped her in a towel, picked her up, and walked her to her own apartment while she protested loudly. Then we drove my mother to Urgent Care. As usual, it took over seven hours for her to get evaluated, tested, and rehydrated. We got home just before midnight.
Eleanor’s primary caretaker said my mother was very tired the next day but that she was cooperative for the rest of the week – eating and drinking more than usual. Intravenous fluids fix dehydration for a short while but are not a long-term solution. If you have experience in this area, new ideas are welcome!
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Images Copyright 2016 by Katy Dickinson