Preventing malnutrition in later life

How care homes can develop good hydration practices

Water, flows from a plastic bottle in a glass isolated on white

Good hydration is so important to a good quality of life, but we know it’s easy for older people to slip through the net and not get enough to drink. In this blog, Dr Lisa Wilson, a registered Public Health Nutritionist based in the UK and specialising in nutrition in older people, talks about a new course she and other experts have designed to help healthcare professionals advance their understanding of hydration in older people.

The European Hydration Institute has developed the first online hydration course of its kind for managers and senior staff working with older people in care homes.

Launched in Nutrition and Hydration week 2016, the course is designed to help professionals working in care home settings increase their understanding of hydration, including the issues which prevent older people being well hydrated.

A quarter of care home residents are dehydrated when admitted to hospital.  Simple changes to practice have been found to improve hydration and quality of life for residents.  These include support with drinking, understanding preferences, providing specialist equipment or just recognising the need to provide drinks on a regular basis as a part of good care and support for residents.

The ‘Care Homes’ module is aimed particularly at managers and senior staff who are in a position to train others or develop policy.  This module looks at the causes and consequences of dehydration in older people and supports staff to develop a whole home approach to good hydration practice.  It provides the tools needed to address hydration issues, which can be replicated as a part of developing a hydration policy.  One focus of the module is in emphasising the importance of well-established hydration policies and practice within a home and covers how to set these up and involve other staff and residents.  Lastly, it gives some examples of good practice and sources of further information and support.

The module is free to access and takes approximately one and half hours to complete. It is part of a range of modules developed for health and social care professionals developed by the European Hydration Institute in partnership with experts in the field including Dr Alistair Connell and Professors Monty Mythen and Hugh Montgomery (University College London), Professor Ron Maughan (Loughborough University), and Dr Lisa Wilson (Registered Public Health Nutritionist).

There are also modules available on water and hydration, hydration and physical activity and hydration and peri-operative care.  The ‘Water and Hydration’ module provides a more in-depth look at the need for good hydration in good health.  Participants will gain a deeper understanding of relevant basic physiology and how this relates to the assessment of hydration in clinical practice. This module contains a mixture of problem-orientated, case-based and reflective learning, and forms the basis from which other modules stem.

All modules can be accessed at the European Hydration Institute’s dedicated site.

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