Are your care home staff drinking enough fluid?

Introduction

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A small study into the drinking habits of staff in a Highland care home has indicated that Care Home Staff are not consuming enough fluids each day. [Have a look at our poll at the bottom of this blog to see if you are drinking enough fluid]

Urray House in Muir of Ord supported Karen Gentleman, a student dietitian from Robert Gordon Univeristy, to carry out a short study with staff to clarify whether dehydration might be an area of staff health which needed more focus. Staff volunteered to record their total daily intake of fluids over a 3 day period. These were compared with their calculated daily fluid requirements (weight x 35mls) and the results showed that care staff members were only consuming an average of 56% of what was recommended. This is shown on the slide below.

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Participants noted that they experienced the following symptoms of dehydration; thirst, passing light brown/yellow urine, lack of urine, tiredness, inability to concentrate, headache and light headedness.

Reasons given for such poor intake included:

“We know we need to drink, but it’s difficult to find the time”,

“When walking about it’s difficult to carry a drink with you”,

“Sometimes you make a hot drink, but are distracted by visitors, the phone, then the drink gets cold so you don’t drink it”

Denise Scott (Urray House Manager) said: “the staff members taking part in the survey were surprised at how poor their fluid intake was and this has really highlighted to them that they need to prioritise time to take drinks throughout the day. We will be sharing this work with other staff here and more widely to support our other colleagues in The Parklands Care Group, it is also an area that could be implemented as part of staff health promotion in the induction process”

Evelyn Newman (Nutrition and dietetics advisor for care homes in NHS Highland) said “this has been an excellent way of showing staff how dehydrated they are and how they can benefit from drinking more fluid at work. We can all benefit from this approach, as it is too easy to forget to drink, while doing other work and focussing on residents rather than ourselves. I hope that we can continue to build on this work and by sharing it with a wider audience”

Conclusion

Care home staff members are generally not meeting their daily fluid requirements. This is not because there is poor access to a range of fluid in the home; rather it is because it is not part of a staff routine to take drinks at every opportunity.

The member of staff with the highest intake took more regular opportunities to drink in smaller quantities. Even so, this was still not meeting their requirements.

Dehydration can have a negative effect on staff health and well-being and may promote symptoms such as tiredness, fatigue, low mood and contribute to increased staff absence. Working in a caring environment for vulnerable adults is a demanding role, making adequate hydration essential to perform duties effectively. Dehydration can also cause feelings of irritability and a lack of concentration which could cause trips and mistakes with medication etc.; this could be detrimental to residents. It is therefore in everyone’s interest to ensure that care home staff members remain adequately hydrated.

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Recommendations

Care home managers and staff are encouraged to assess their own fluid intake and to take steps within their own care environment to ensure that drinks are encouraged at every opportunity; for example taking tea with residents; having water at staff meetings/handovers; drinking fluids during teaching sessions.

Good fluid intake is also essential for residents and service users too, so support them to have a variety of drinks and flavours; offer ice lollies or chilled jellies; soups and milky puddings and use prescribed thickening agents for anyone with dysphagia and in need of texture modification.

Evelyn Newman RD and Denise Scott, Manager, Urray House Care home.

June 2015

Resources

Click on each image for a dehydration poster

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Poll. Do you drink enough fluid at work?

Notes and thanks

With thanks to RGU student Karen Gentleman, from Robert Gordon Univeristy who is currently finishing her B placement.

The attached flyers and posters have been rolled out to all care homes and care at home providers with full support of the Director of Adult Social Care, Joanna MacDonald.

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