Dehydration – the Sunshine Danger

It seems as though summer may finally hit the UK with some extremely hot days and humid hot nights.

This is welcomed by most people although those who work indoors may not always see the benefits of sunshine when you can’t open doors and windows to enjoy it.
I am fortunate to have a large garden and enjoy making use of any time I can to sit and enjoy the warmth and heat of the sun.

I was aware that, in the heat I was perspiring to a point where sweat was running down my forehead in what seemed to be a never ending stream! It never occurred to me that the perspiration was actually from my body and was essential fluid that I was not replacing – as I didn’t have a drink with me and was frankly too comfortable to leave the garden to fetch a drink of water. After a couple of hours I finally realised that all this perspiration and lack of fluid intake could not be very good for my hydration status.

The following day I was working in a care home specialising in the care of residents with significant dementia. Several residents were enjoying the sunshine in the garden and even those sitting in shade were clearly quite warm.

The home had a comprehensive notice board with the days menu, staff names and useful information. At the bottom of the notice was a comment which read “juice and ice creams – just ask”.

I am aware that staff prepare drinks on a regular basis but felt shocked that I had only just made the simple connection relating to hydration.

There was never an issue that residents could not have juice, water, ice cream or any other drink of their choice. The problem is that most residents would not be able to ask staff for refreshments as they were unable to fully articulate their needs.

This struck me as very similar to my situation in the garden. I had water, juice, ice lollies etc. but had no inclination to access any of this due to the heat, my lethargy and the “comfort factor” of my situation.

Residents are always able to access a wide range of refreshments but most were not able to tell staff what they wanted.I discussed this with staff and immediately there was a significant response. I suggested that they ask each resident if they would like juice etc. and repeat the offers every hour (or even half hour during very hot days) to ensure that residents were fully hydrated.

I’m not sure just how much of a benefit the hydration was, but I know that all the residents were excited that their day was brightened by the addition of a few ice creams and lollies. One lady said that it was a long time since had enjoyed being at the seaside so much. The home is approx. 65 miles from the sea – but she was having a great day!

There is an old saying that “you can take a horse to water but you can’t make it drink”!
I would like to suggest that there is an additional saying “you can have as much water as you like but if you don’t know it’s there you will never drink”.

My message is:
Don’t just make drinks available – make sure that residents know they are there and are directly asked if they would like refreshment at every possible occasion. The fact is that, during the summer months there will be up to 40,000 cases of dehydration which require hospitalisation (or worse).

We can all play our part in reducing this number.