Research published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine has revealed that 12% of pensioners admitted to hospital from care homes are suffering from dehydration.
The study, completed by researchers at Oxford University and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, reviewed data from 20,000 hospital admissions. They found that more than one in 10 pensioners admitted to hospital from care homes were dehydrated, compared to only one percent of those who were admitted from their own home.
Previous research has found that elderly people admitted to hospital already suffering from dehydration face an increased risk of death. Researcher Dr Anthony Wolff said: "Our study shows that too many patients admitted to hospital from a substantial number of care homes are dehydrated, leading to unnecessary loss of life."
Although the reasons behind the findings are not clear, it is feared that that care home staff may be giving residents less fluids so they don't have to clear up after those who are incontinent.
Study author Professor David Stuckler, from the University of Oxford, said: "Clearly this level of dehydration is a problem. Further research is needed to understand why it is occurring. Are care home residents choosing to drink less than they should? Or, as has been speculated, are care home staff not offering enough water to reduce incontinence and the amount of assistance their residents require?"
Co-author of the research paper, Professor Martin McKee said the findings raise "serious concerns about the quality of care provided in some care homes."
Charities for the elderly echoed that the findings were unacceptable. Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director of Age UK said: “It is deeply distressing that older people living in care homes are more likely to be suffering from dehydration when they are admitted to hospital. Deaths linked to dehydration are completely avoidable and unacceptable”.
The Good Care Group’s CEO, Fiona Lowry, commented: “We know how critical it is for those in a position of care to manage liquid intake and avoid the risks of dehydration. All our carers are fully trained in nutrition, ensuring clients remain well hydrated and well cared-for.”