As we age, changes in our brains and bodies make us more vulnerable to dehydration. Our thirst reflex begins to weaken, our declining muscle mass means we store less water, and our kidneys concentrate urine less effectively, meaning more fluid is lost.
Individuals residing in nursing and residential care home settings often need help with eating and drinking and ensuring that they are adequately hydrated can be a significant challenge.
I-Hydrate, a collaborative project led by Professor Jennie Wilson at the University of West London, sets out to optimise the amount of fluid consumed by elderly care home residents. The project involved understanding current hydration practice in care home settings; establishing a team of care home staff to design, develop, test and implement hydration strategies; and planning and testing each strategy to see how it works in practice and how it could be improved.
Using this research, Professor Wilson produced a free downloadable resource pack that is being used in hundreds of care settings to ensure older people are kept hydrated. The simple and cost-effective measures within the resource pack are preventing illness and transforming the wellbeing of those residing in nursing and residential care homes. They are now working with Elaros, Age UK, National Hydration Network and Public Health Wales to share the resource pack across the care sector.