There is a horrendous story in today’s papers about a young man who died in a London hospital from dehydration. Throughout a catalogue of disasters and omissions by the hospital, the 22 year old even dialed 999 to try and get the police to get him a drink of water. It is a horrible, horrible story and one which resonates with me too. My father, who has multi-infarct dementia, has been admitted to hospital several times in the past few years with dehydration. The care-home where he lives often ‘forget’ to give him water to drink and as a result he starts to become seriously unwell, fits and eventually is admitted to hospital. Although he is given coffee at certain points of the day and juice with his meal, he has to be prompted to drink it. He forgets to drink what is in front of him.
It is not a huge care issue – to prompt someone to drink. Without the prompting he just forgets. It is not like dealing with incontinence or wandering or shouting which many others in the home do. All it takes is for a member of staff to remind him to drink whenever they pass him. And to make sure that he has a drink beside him all the time. That’s not a big care issue in my books. We’ve even had it written into his Care Plan because for a while there were so many temporary staff nobody knew about it. But still I will visit and find him with no drink beside him. He has a catheter so it is important that he drinks plenty fluids. There’s barely a month goes by without him being on antibiotics because of an infection with that and I wonder if drinking more might just help.
We used to always take drinks in for him when we visited but were told we didn’t need to because they would provide it. And sometimes they do. But not always. He has gout too and what is one of the causes of gout recurring? Dehydration. It just seems such a simple thing but somehow it doesn’t always get done.
And hospitals are not excluded from this either. For when he is admitted and is given a drip it sometimes takes 4 days to rehydrate him. Then when he is taken off the drip the problem starts all over again. Water jugs out of reach, full cups of coffee removed because they are cold but nobody thinks that this means he hasn’t drunk anything.
You’d think it was such a simple thing. We are not a developing country; water is freely available. But time and time again I visit people in hospital suffering from dehydration. It is just so preventable and so simple really. Their needs are few. They thirst. Just give them a drink.