Suffolk study shows water cuts falls

A WEST Suffolk care home has cut the number of elderly people suffering falls by 50% - simply by giving them more water.Martins Methodist Home for the Aged in Bury St Edmunds.

Laurence Cawley

A WEST Suffolk care home has cut the number of elderly people suffering falls by 50% - simply by giving them more water.

The connection between falls and water came about as a result of a drinking club at The Martins Methodist Home for the Aged in Bury St Edmunds.

The manager there had concerns that not enough water was being drunk by residents and so set up a club scheme in which those living at the home drank copious amounts of water.

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Staff at the home also found the water regime led to fewer GP call-outs, a decrease in urinary infections, a 50% cut in the amount of laxative taken, better sleep and less agitation for residents with dementia.

The regime led to an 18-month study carried out by Anglian Water and now forms the basis of a new campaign called Health on Tap.

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And Baroness Greengross of Notting Hill, former director general of Age Concern, has raised a written question in the House of Lords asking the Government if it believes the current voluntary arrangements within the care sector for hydration policies are adequate.

Baroness Greengross also asked the Government to consider whether the pilot study indicated the need for hydration policies and whether they should form part of national minimum standards for all care homes for older people.

Collette Nicholls, of Anglian Water, said: “Falls are the leading cause of injury which leads to death in people aged over 75. The evidence of the health benefits drinking water can bring older people are so powerful we could not ignore it. Health on tap and the Good Hydration Charter should be adopted in all care homes for older people.”

Professor Richard Parish, chief executive of the Royal Institute of Public Health, said: “It has been clear to us for some time that proper hydration, and in particular, a plentiful supply of fresh tap water, is of the utmost importance for older people. We have been an enthusiastic supporter of Anglian Water's research in this area.

“If the findings are widely implemented we believe we would see measurable improvements in the health of our older citizens and a reduction in falls, helping to reduce pressure on the NHS as well as over the longer term.”

Half a million bed days are taken up by older people who experience falls. And hip fractures - the most common injured associated with trips and falls - costs the NHS £1.6 billion a year.

Stephen Dean, chairman of the Suffolk Falls Prevention Action Group, said: “A fall for an older person is much more likely to result in injury, especially fracture. The effects of such injuries have serious implications for an older person's ability to remain living independently, and significant cost implications for Health and Social Services. Preventing falls can improve people's quality of life and yield savings for public services.”

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