Advising with empathy and experience

Dying for a Drink?


At least 168 pensioners in care homes were left so dehydrated in 2014 that they had to be admitted to a hospital ward - but the true figure could be much higher.

Three pensioners are rushed to hospital every week because their care home has let them get so thirsty that their health is at risk, according to figures released in response to a Parliament question.

The figures, issued following question from Tory MP Chris Skidmore, member of the Commons Health Select Committee, are just the tip of the iceberg because the statistics include only those admitted with a primary diagnosis of dehydration.

This means that hundreds of others may have been noted in records as having been admitted with a different condition, even though they had been left severely thirsty. Also, doctors do not always record that someone has come from a care home - meaning the true scale of the problem is likely to be be far higher.

The figures obtained by Chris Skidmore show that in 2011/12, 168 care home residents aged more than 65 were admitted with a primary diagnosis of dehydration. This included 34 in NHS-run nursing homes, 10 in residential homes run by local authorities and 124 in privately-run care homes.

During the past five years, 950 have been admitted with dehydration from care homes as a primary diagnosis. The figures also show that 7,717 elderly people were admitted in 2011/12 from their own homes with dehydration. That is 21 a day.

This may indicate that councils have failed to provide decent home helps to ensure that pensioners get the liquids they need - and the help to drink it.

The numbers being admitted with dehydration from their own homes has soared by 18 per cent in the past five years. Mr Skidmore's figures also show that last year, 284 elderly people were admitted to hospital with a primary diagnosis of malnutrition. Of these, two were from care homes.       

The findings came weeks after the Care Quality Commission (CQC) said one in five care homes did not meet standards on ensuring residents received enough food and drink.

Commenting on the figures, Chris Skidmore said: 'How we care for the elderly, frail and vulnerable is the ultimate test of compassion in our society.

'The government has made it clear that the current situation is unacceptable, as these figures demonstrate. For too long, what good care really looks like has been forgotten in some homes- we need to recognise that care must be measured in human terms, not recorded in units of time or institutional practices.'