Hydration and Older People in the UK: Addressing the Problem, Understanding the Solutions

Dehydration is an unnecessary and potentially dangerous state for those experiencing it.

In the 21st Century in the developed world it seems implausible that people should suffer from poor hydration, yet this is often the case in the UK today.

Dehydration can have a severe impact on health and well-being, leading to functional and long term health problems, particularly in older people, but as yet this is rarely reflected in the development of nutrition and health policy. Hydration remains an area of health and social care policy which continues to be overlooked, often due to the mistaken assumption that it is included as a part overall nutritional care. Whilst it is true that the two issues are inextricably linked, hydration needs to be considered as a key public health issue in its own right, which requires separate attention and guidance.

This report was written on behalf of and in consultation with the members of the Parliamentary Hydration Forum. The Hydration Forum is working to raise the profile of this key issue particularly in older people who are at greater risk. This Action plan outlines the key factors resulting in dehydration for older people (particularly vulnerable older people) and highlights the need for urgent reform in both regulation and policy with regard to this issue. It considers five main areas of hydration policy and practice: raising awareness, good practice, screening, workforce training and research to better understand the current situation and the gaps in ensuring good hydration across all care settings.

The report also presents the challenges and solutions to drinking and hydration issues for older people whether living independently, in care homes or during hospital stays. There are many effective projects aiming to address hydration issues in the UK. The effectiveness of small, inexpensive interventions in addressing hydration issues and their associated health risks has been proven and some of those case studies are presented here. The Forum urges organisations to support our aim of developing appropriate policy and actions to tackle this key health area.

Author: Dr Lisa Wilson

Download a PDF of the report below.

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