That’s the message from health experts at NHS Surrey Downs Clinical Commissioning Group who, as part of Nutrition and Hydration week (13-19 March), are raising awareness of the importance of good hydration. The CCG is also sharing innovative work that is helping to reduce infections in falls in care homes by promoting good practice.
According to national guidance, healthy adults should aim to drink six to eight glasses of water every day. Other liquids such as low fat milk, sugar-free drinks, tea and coffee also contribute to your hydration. By making small changes to our daily hydration levels, we can reduce the risk of illness and other adverse effects. This is particularly important for the elderly, as due to numerous changes in body functions drinking can be harder, and the risk of illnesses such as urinary tract infections can be greater.
Lorna Hart, Nurse and Deputy Director of Urgent Care and Integration at Surrey Downs Clinical Commissioning Group explains:
“Dehydration can be the starting point for many problems including dizziness, loss of concentration, urinary tract infections and falls so it's important for general health and well-being that we all stay well hydrated. It’s even more important for those who are frail and elderly, including people living in care homes because they are at a greater risk and are more likely to experience complications.”
Surrey Downs CCG is working with care homes to encourage older people to drink more because research shows that being well hydrated reduces the risk of illnesses such as urinary tract infections, falls and fractures. It also shows that dehydration can lower mood, reduce reaction time and short-term memory, and cause confusion and disorientation.
So far twenty-one care homes have signed up to work with Surrey Downs CCG as part of a scheme called Project Hydration to encourage older people living in care homes to improve their level of hydration through increasing the amount they drink, when appropriate. Although the project is in its early stages, participating homes have already reported a reduction in urinary tract infections and falls.
Staff at care homes that are part of the project are using a range of techniques to persuade residents to drink more water. These include setting up colourful hydration stations, putting hydration charts on residents’ doors so that staff easily know which residents may need support, non-alcoholic drinks parties and identifying regular times for staff and residents to drink and talk together.
Lorna Hart added: “We are delighted with the interest we have had so far from care homes and we hope many more will sign up to take part and share best practice.
“When a care home joins the scheme, we share best practice with their nominated ‘hydration champion’ and provide regular training for complex cases. The hydration champions can then train other care home staff to help them improve the hydration of residents. Through the project we now have a forum where homes can come and share best practice, learning from each other about initiatives that help improve hydration, social interaction, and other aspects of wellbeing for their residents.”
Care homes that sign up to the scheme are also awarded the CCG’s project hydration quality mark so families and other potential residents who are looking for a care home know that the staff are aware of the importance of good hydration and have been trained to look out for signs of dehydration.
Carol Kirby, Manager at Cossins House said: “It’s really important to encourage our residents to eat and drink enough. Many of them are in their 90s and good hydration helps to keep residents mentally alert, improves wellbeing and leads to a much more rewarding and healthy lifestyle. Also it can reduce urine infections, help reduce falls, thus reducing admissions to hospital.
“I’m extremely proud of the team and the commitment that they have to deliver optimum level of care to the residents at all times. All of our staff have been trained by the manager and in house trainer on hydration and nutrition. We have developed and learnt a great deal with the support of the CCG and are positive about working together in the future.”
Picture: Cossins House Care Home Staff (L to R) Donna Warren, Carol Kirby (home manager) Lisa Warner and Marita Segui have set up a non-alcoholic drinks station for residents