Encouraging hydration in the elderly can reap longer term benefits
No one wants to get old, but this fact of life can have many positives if an element of dignity and physical ability remains. Without sounding too depressing, one of the many perils of getting older is that the thirsty sensation diminishes as you age. It becomes increasingly difficult to realise you are dehydrated. The implications of which can be significant. Why? Well because your body needs fluids to function!
With the double whammy of not having the thirst sensation, it is no wonder that dehydration in the care home setting is being linked to a wider number of conditions. These range from UTIs, constipation and kidney complaints through to reduced cognitive impairment, confusion and falls.
Facing the cost of care
Practically in a care home setting, the realities of the cost of care for dealing with any one of these conditions, is very likely to exceed any of the costs involved in ensuring residents are hydrated. Importantly this does not even include demands on staff time, where poorly residents require additional help and support, and sometimes medical involvement. Whilst these impacts could largely be perceived to be anecdotal, there is clearly a need to conduct research into the cost impact of dehydration across care settings.
Industry views are that hydration policies in Hospitals and Care Homes should be mandatory with practices in place to monitor / evaluate them. Potentially, this could even become part of regulated and inspected care issues. However, this would also need to include support staff training in order to meet the requirements.
So what could a hydration policy involve?
From the outset best practice should include training and information. This should include a complete understanding of the role of fluid in the body, the importance of the daily fluid intake and how to recognise the signs and risks of dehydration. This should sit alongside the practical approach. There should be increased options; both of the drinks available and the dispensing format. Very few elderly people like drinking water. So, by introducing juices, juice drinks and pure fruit smoothies (particularly if there are residents who struggle with the swallowing reflex or are looking to increase calorie intake), you are likely to see even the most reticent of drinkers are more inclined to increase their daily fluid intake.
These drinks are fruit based, so also have the key antioxidant Vitamin C to help protect cells, keep immune systems nourished, help prevent cataracts, heart disease and can even benefit people with diabetes by regulating blood sugar levels. Some flavours may also have added zinc which aids enzyme production, facilitates cell repair and growth, and helps fight illness. The result; increase in hydration levels, healthier residents and a noticeable increase in their activity levels.
By making appealing drinks more readily accessible and available, people are more encouraged to increase their drinking. There are the usual locations such as in the dining room, activity area and lounges, or jugs and carafes placed directly onto tables or in resident’s rooms. But it is also important to consider other areas, such as even in corridors and hallways.
What are the benefits of a hydration policy?
The potential benefits of having a defined hydration policy and approach are significant:
- Less urine and health issues to deal with, so a reduction in cost of care
- Much less demands on staff time
- Healthier and happier residents with a better quality of life in your care
- More residents choice
- Dispensing solutions to suit your care setting
- An immediate, visible sign for residents, visitors of the nature and level of care in your home
- A long term cost saving
Clearly, the dehydration effects in the elderly are having significant impacts on the demands on staff time. The consequence is creating far-reaching costs which alongside methods to address it, are illustrated in this infographic by Oranka Juice Solutions: The Hydration Impact of Reducing Falls. However, it can deliver enormous benefits and cost savings. Clearly there is a careful balance between the financial implications of cost of care, versus achieving hydration in residents. But with the right training, policies, drinks and dispensing approaches, a dramatic difference can be made to the health, welfare and wellbeing of residents.
LinkedIn: Oranka Juice Solutions
You can also read more about Elior UK’s Care business, Caterplus on the website https://caterplus.co.uk/
The comments and thoughts in this post don’t necessarily represent those of Elior and are not endorsed but represent the thoughts and comments of the contributors.