A recent study found that individuals from care home were more likely to suffer from dehydration compared to those living in their own homes. The study, conducted by Wolff et al (2015), looked at first admission of patients 65 years and older to Barnet and Chase Farm Hospitals Trust between January 2011 and December 2013. The researchers sought to determine whether patients from care homes would be more likely to experience hypernatraemia, or high plasma sodium, which is indicative of dehydration.
The researchers collected data on age, gender, type of admission, whether or not patients had dementia and whether they resided in a care home or their own home. Laboratory data was used to identify dehydration upon admission, as well as whether they subsequently died in hospital. Dehydration was defined as hypernatraemia in the first 24 hours of admission. Overall, researchers identified 432 cases of hypernatraemia out of 21,610 admissions. There were a total of 1,413 hospital deaths recorded.
Dehydration was 10 times more likely to occur in older people living in care homes compared to those living in their own homes, the researchers found; 12 percent of care home patients had high plasma sodium from dehydration compared to only 1.3 percent of patients in their own homes. In general, care home patients were older and more likely to have dementia compared to own-home patients. However, care home residents still had a five-fold increased risk of high sodium levels after adjusting for age, gender, admission type and presence of dementia.
Patients without dementia living in their own homes had the lowest risk of dehydration, followed by own-home patients with dementia. Care home residents with dementia had the next-greatest risk and care home residents with dementia had the highest risk of hypernatraemia. Furthermore, care home residents faced a two-fold increased risk of dying in hospital, adjusted figures showed. On its own, hypernatraemia was associated with a five-fold increased risk of dying in hospital. The authors concluded that the numbers of dehydrated care home patients admitted to hospital are too large, resulting in unnecessary loss of life.