Care home dehydration tests don't work

March 10, 2019

Standard tests used to identify dehydration are not working for older people living in care homes - according to new research from the University of East Anglia.

Carers often use simple tests to see if an older person is dehydrated. These include looking at their eyes, skin, or asking if someone feels thirsty, tired or has a headache.

But new research published today finds that these tests do not accurately identify dehydration in older people, when compared against 'gold standard' blood tests.

Lead researcher Dr Lee Hooper, from UEA's Norwich Medical School, said: "Low-intake dehydration happens when people don't drink enough fluids to stay healthy, and is very common in older people, including those living in care homes.

"It happens for all sorts of reasons, such as weakened thirst sensation - which happens as we age, not remembering to drink or difficulties fetching, carrying and reaching drinks.

"Standard tests for dehydration include looking at the eyes, skin, inside the mouth or feeling under the arm to check for dryness, measuring for a drop in blood pressure, or asking if someone feels thirsty, headachy or tired.

"These tests have long been described as standard clinical indicators of dehydration and their use is advocated in nursing and medical text books, care guidelines and many health-related websites.

"But we wanted to know if these tests work in older people living in care homes, how accurate they are, and whether they really tell us if someone is dehydrated. This is important to know because using a test which doesn't work is telling us the wrong thing and health professionals might provide the wrong care as a result."

The research team studied 188 men and women living in care homes in Norfolk and Suffolk. Participants underwent a number of standard dehydration tests such as looking in their mouth and feeling under their arm, having blood pressure, pulse and temperature measured, and answering questions about how they were feeling, including whether they felt thirsty or not.

They were also given a blood test to test for serum osmolality - the most accurate test available for measuring low-intake dehydration. The results of all the other tests were compared to this 'gold standard'.

Lead author, Dr Diane Bunn, from UEA's School of Health Sciences, said: "When we analysed the results of all the simple tests, we found that none of them were able to accurately identify people with dehydration, and we recommend that they are withdrawn from practice.

"Whilst blood tests are the most accurate way of telling if someone is dehydrated, this is expensive and not easily done in care homes unless a doctor orders the test. We really need an inexpensive easy-to-do test for dehydration in older people, and one which works."
-end-
'Signs and symptoms of low-intake dehydration do not work in older care home 1 residents - DRIE diagnostic accuracy study' is published in the Journal of the American Medical Directors Association (JAMDA) on Monday, March 11, 2019. The research was funded by the National Institute for Health Research.

University of East Anglia

Related Blood Pressure Articles from Brightsurf:

Children who take steroids at increased risk for diabetes, high blood pressure, blood clots
Children who take oral steroids to treat asthma or autoimmune diseases have an increased risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, and blood clots, according to Rutgers researchers.

High blood pressure treatment linked to less risk for drop in blood pressure upon standing
Treatment to lower blood pressure did not increase and may decrease the risk of extreme drops in blood pressure upon standing from a sitting position.

Changes in blood pressure control over 2 decades among US adults with high blood pressure
National survey data were used to examine how blood pressure control changed overall among U.S. adults with high blood pressure between 1999-2000 and 2017-2018 and by age, race, insurance type and access to health care.

Transient increase in blood pressure promotes some blood vessel growth
Blood vessels are the body's transportation system, carrying oxygen and nutrients to cells and whisking away waste.

Effect of reducing blood pressure medications on blood pressure control in older adults
Whether the amount of blood pressure medications taken by older adults could be reduced safely and without a significant change in short-term blood pressure control was the objective of this randomized clinical trial that included 534 adults 80 and older.

Brain blood flow sensor discovery could aid treatments for high blood pressure & dementia
A study led by researchers at UCL has discovered the mechanism that allows the brain to monitor its own blood supply, a finding in rats which may help to find new treatments for human conditions including hypertension (high blood pressure) and dementia.

Here's something that will raise your blood pressure
The apelin receptor (APJ) has been presumed to play an important role in the contraction of blood vessels involved in blood pressure regulation.

New strategy for treating high blood pressure
The key to treating blood pressure might lie in people who are 'resistant' to developing high blood pressure even when they eat high salt diets, shows new research published today in Experimental Physiology.

Arm cuff blood pressure measurements may fall short for predicting heart disease risk in some people with resistant high blood pressure
A measurement of central blood pressure in people with difficult-to-treat high blood pressure could help reduce risk of heart disease better than traditional arm cuff readings for some patients, according to preliminary research presented at the American Heart Association's Hypertension 2019 Scientific Sessions.

Heating pads may lower blood pressure in people with high blood pressure when lying down
In people with supine hypertension due to autonomic failure, a condition that increases blood pressure when lying down, overnight heat therapy significantly decreased systolic blood pressure compared to a placebo.

Read More: Blood Pressure News and Blood Pressure Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.