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Making drinking fun to prevent illness

Residents at Ealing House care home in Martham, Norfolk, will be taking part in a range of activities from lemonade making to tea tasting – as part of a new UEA research initiative.

Organised by researchers from UEA’s Norwich Medical School, ‘Making Drinking Fun’ will see residents take part in activities which aim to make drinking more enjoyable.

It comes after the research team found that more enjoyable, drink-focused activities for older people encourage more drinking and therefore help prevent low-intake dehydration-related illnesses.

Findings from the Dunhill Medical Trust funded research, led by Dr Lee Hooper, revealed that making drinking more sociable, by facilitating social contact between residents, visitors and staff will make drinking more enjoyable. 

Not drinking enough for health (low-intake dehydration) is common in older people living in care homes, and becomes more likely in older adults with dementia, diabetes or kidney problems. Low-intake dehydration is associated with an increased risk of disability, hospital admission and death, but is often missed by carers because it’s hard to detect.

Researchers worked with activities coordinators, other care staff, residents and family members of six care homes across Norfolk and Suffolk to develop and test an activities toolkit. Themes of the activities included:

  • a direct focus on drinking (e.g. tea parties, lemonade making),
  • sharing a drink during a pleasant activity (e.g. afternoon film matinees, board games), and
  • activities with a whole care home approach (e.g. tea tasting, festive tea trolleys).

Following this initial research, which also included interviews with residents and staff, an activities toolkit was produced, which discusses the importance of drinking. It recommends how much older people should drink and gives tips on how to support drinking well in care homes.  The toolkit also includes ideas for care staff to run their own range of activities.

Florence Jimoh, UEA researcher, said: “Taking part helped residents, staff and families support each other to drink more, have fun and socialise. Some residents found new drinks they enjoy in addition to their usual tea and coffee, these are now offered regularly and incorporated in their care plans.”

Overall, activities were found to be engaging for residents, especially with dementia and the research found that new spatial arrangements can enhance hydration - such as creation of social space with a kettle or coffee machine where family and friends can sit, chat and drink with residents. This can help with serving drinks during activities too. In addition, training is key to helping all staff understand the importance of drinking and developing confidence in how to support residents to drink well.

Study medicine at UEA

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