Improving fluid intake
Urinary tract infections (UTIs) have become a growing concern for the NHS and UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), prompting them to launch a new awareness campaign aimed at reducing hospital admissions.
Recent data shows that between 2018-19 and 2022-23, UTIs caused over 1.8 million hospital admissions, most of which involved patients aged 65 and older.
Although UTIs are a year-round concern, clinical leaders are reminding people, particularly those aged 65 and older and carers, about the precautions they can take to reduce their chances of getting the harmful infection as the NHS prepares for another busy winter.
Elizabeth Beech, NHS England South West Regional Antimicrobial Stewardship Lead, said:
"UTI is very common, and early treatment with the correct antibiotic can reduce the risk of a serious infection that can result in hospital admission, particularly for older people. That's why we are encouraging older people and their carers to take simple measures to reduce the risk of infection, recognise the signs of a possible infection and seek NHS help. Both of these can help people stay safe at home this winter."
What is a urinary tract infection?
Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are common infections that affect the bladder, the kidneys and the tubes connected to them. Although anyone can get them, UTIs are particularly common in women, with some women experiencing them regularly (called recurrent UTIs) and older adults, particularly people 65 years and older.
UTIs can be painful and uncomfortable but typically pass within a few days and can be treated with antibiotics. If left untreated, UTIs can become serious infections and can lead to admission to hospital.
What are the symptoms of a urinary tract infection?
- Needing to pee more frequently or urgently than usual
- Pain or a burning sensation when peeing (dysuria)
- Needing to pee more often than usual during the night (nocturia)
- Pee that looks cloudy
- Blood in the pee
- Lower tummy pain or pain in your back, just under the ribs
- A high temperature or feeling hot and shivery
- A very low temperature below 36C
For older people, symptoms can include changes in behaviour, such as acting agitated or confused.
Why do urinary tract infections increase the risk of falls in older adults?
The British Medical Journal (BMJ) has published a quality improvement report titled 'Reducing urinary tract infections in care homes by improving hydration'. The report highlights that dehydration can increase the risk of urinary tract infections (UTIs), which in turn can lead to confusion, falls, acute kidney injury and hospitalisation.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) also reports that dehydration increases the risk of UTIs, which can lead to multiple complications, including confusion, falls, acute kidney injury and hospital admission. The report also goes on to say that dehydration is a common cause of hospital admission among nursing home residents, with one in four nursing home patients admitted to the hospital being dehydrated.
What precautions should care providers take to reduce the risk of residents falling or getting a urinary tract infection?
Older adults may forget to drink enough water and become dehydrated due to a diminished sense of thirst; they may need extra support to stay hydrated.
Furthermore, according to the NHS, 75% of nursing home residents have swallowing difficulties, which make them susceptible to decreased fluid intake. These factors increase the risk of dehydration and UTIs in older adults, which can then lead to confusion, falls, acute kidney injury and hospital admission.
In order to help prevent falls and UTIs, one thing care providers can do is monitor the amount of fluids residents are drinking per day.
Care providers can do this easily with our digital social care record system, mCare.
Monitoring fluids with mCare
Care providers can monitor fluids in real-time using mCare's Fluid and Nutrition Monitoring feature.
With mCare’s Fluid and Nutrition Monitoring feature, carers can fully personalise each resident's fluid needs, indicating each person's fluid requirements, whether a fluid target needs to be met, or whether a fluid cap is in place due to a medical condition.
Using mCare to monitor fluid intake accurately is an easy and effective way to ensure that older adults in care homes stay hydrated.
Person Centred Software also provides Smart Cups, intelligent drinking glasses that continuously monitor fluid and summarise and deliver relevant insights and notifications to carers, healthcare professionals and relatives, helping to prevent dehydration.