Old folk urged to drink chilled water

An East Anglian project to tackle dehydration among the elderly will save lives and millions of NHS pounds, according to Health and water officials.

An East Anglian project to tackle dehydration among the elderly will save lives and millions of NHS pounds, it was claimed yesterday.

Health and water officials hailed the launch of the pioneering scheme, which will investigate the link between dehydration and the number of falls in residential care homes.

Over the next six months, Anglian Water and the Royal Institute of Public Health (RIPH) will be installing water coolers and handing out educational material to staff and residents at five care homes in Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire, in a bid to encourage pensioners to drink more water.

By urging the elderly to consume eight glasses of water a day - worth less than 1p - the two organisations hope to reduce dizziness and falls by over 50pc, cut the number of GP and ambulance callouts, and reduce other health-related problems such as incontinence and urinary tract infections.

The launch of the dehydration-busting trail at the voluntary, private, and public sector residential homes in Norwich, Bury St Edmunds, Newmarket, and Whittlesea, Cambridgeshire, follows a survey by the Royal Society for the Promotion of Health, which found that many elderly residents in care did not drink enough water to maintain good health.

If the pilot scheme proves successful over the next six months, the simple hydration advice and literature could be rolled out to care homes across the country.

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Andrew Mackintosh, from Anglian Water, said the company was “horrified” that trips and falls accounted for half-a- million hospital bed days a year, fractured hip injuries cost the NHS £1.7bn a year, and over 50pc of elderly people died as a result of the trauma of a fall-related injury.

“It is very simple advice, but by drinking 1.5 to 2lts of water a day, which costs almost nothing, it can cut down falls and the pain that families go through. Potentially, it could mean massive savings for the NHS and

the care profession,” he said.

Robert Silbermann, chief executive of the RIPH, added that the project aimed to change attitudes among senior citizens, who traditionally prefer hot drinks such as tea and coffee, which can cause dehydration, and overcome fears that increased water consumption could lead to more toilet breaks.

“A behavioural change and education process is needed in care homes, but we also need to make water accessible and palatable. If it is not chilled, it does not taste very good,” he said.

Wendy Tomlinson, manager of The Martins, Methodist Homes for the Aged, at Bury St Edmunds, which is taking part in the study, said she had noticed a huge change among residents since the installation of a water cooler nine months ago.

“It is absolutely fantastic and I hope it will be picked up by other homes. They are really drinking more and it is adding to their quality of life. Callouts for GPs and ambulances have dropped to a minimum,” she said.