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Hydration status of people with cognitive impairment within an acute care environment

Dr Judy McCrow, Dr Eamonn Eeles, Dr Keren Harvey
Research Centre DCRC Carers and Consumers
Partner Institution
Project Description

Research has shown that dehydration is common in older adults and can result in adverse events such as falls, delayed wound healing, behavioural changes and even death. Other consequences of dehydration in a hospitalised older person include constipation, medication toxicity, urinary tract infections and respiratory tract infections.

For older people, accessing adequate fluids in hospital can be difficult for a number of reasons, some of which are likely to be health system-related. Such factors could include whether drinks are within easy reach of the patient, given with required aids (e.g., a straw or sipper cup), presented at 'normal' drink times, such as together with food, made according to personal preference, supplied together with information about the importance of hydration. However, when people have cognitive impairments, such as delirium or dementia, the problems are further exacerbated. While hydration was been explored in older people in acute care it has been seldom been explored in people with cognitive deficits within an acute care environment. This exploration is necessary as these people are at an increased risk of dehydration which negatively impacts on hospital outcomes.

This study will firstly determine the hydration status of people with cognitive impairment both on admission and during their hospitalisation and we will investigate barriers and potential enablers to adequate hydration in people with cognitive impairment whilst they are in hospital. Information gained from this study will guide future studies investigating, patient outcomes, economic viability, sustainability and staff adherence of hydration interventions and will help inform both policy and procedure development for the management of hydration in older people with cognitive impairments within acute care environments.

This project will involve geriatric specialists who are both practicing clinicians and researchers. Dr. Eeles has completed numerous research projects in collaboration with world renowned experts (such as Dr RE Hubbard and Prof K Rockwood). Examples of his body of work include; improving understanding of management of delirium in older people; providing evidence for predictors of adverse outcomes and the role of mobility and balance within acute care.

The outcomes of this research are considered part of best clinical management for older people. Dr. Harvey has expertise in both clinical management and research into improving outcomes for older people. Her research investigating dehydration in older people within acute care will provide valued expertise to this research project.

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