Nutrition and Hydration Week is a national awareness week spotlighting the value good food and drink play in our lives and started over a decade ago.

Hydration in particular is an important and nuanced topic when caring for people receiving palliative and end of life care as the human body changes as time passes. 

We asked one of Trinity’s Palliative Medicine Consultants, Dr James Renshaw to tell us more about hydration in relation to hospice patients:  

“Trinity’s staff are skilled at supporting all of a patient’s needs and that includes managing fluid intake as a person is less well.

It’s a conversation we proactively raise with patients and their families and an important one to have, in preparing for end of life, so the patient and their family understand what may happen as the body starts to shut down.

Most people who are dying who are able to express their needs will say they have less of a desire to drink.

Some people will tell us they may be experiencing thirst, usually from a dry mouth, which the clinical team at Trinity helps them manage effectively using mouth care and introducing fluid through the use of small mouth sponges.

Mouth care is usually more effective than artificial routes of hydration, such as drips, which also bypass someone’s ability to choose for themselves.

Drips can often cause more symptoms from fluid excess, such as swelling and breathlessness. However, if a patient has symptoms which we think a drip would help with, then we would discuss trialling this with person and those important to them.

Our focus at Trinity is always a person’s comfort, and we would always encourage and support someone to drink if this is their preference.

When a patient can no longer tell us what they need, there are medical and nursing assessments to gauge their hydration status. There is no one single best hydration method because every patient is different.

It is a natural response for friends and family to want to hydrate a person who is unwell, but over time, as the body weakens there is less need for fluids.”

Royal Trinity Hospice has produced a leaflet specifically to cover hydration titled ‘Fluids at the end of life’. Copies are available in the hospice or online, along with a wide range of other leaflets. 

Take me to the leaflet 'Fluids at the end of life'