Dehydration is a major concern for nursing homes, as it can often snowball into much more serious issues, such as delirium, falls, constipation and urinary tract infections. But the field lacks a uniform method of assessing a lack of water in older adults, according to a new study.

Aiming to provide more clarity for caregivers, researchers from Austria and the Netherlands conducted a systematic review of 19 studies tied to dehydration. Their results — published in the August issue of the Journal of Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine — pinpointed 49 different identified risk factors for dehydration. However, only two of those factors  — fever and cognitive impairment — were more than significantly associated with dehydration in the 19 studies.

“Dehydration among nursing home residents is measured in many different ways and we lack a universally agreed-on operationalization,” the authors concluded. “Therefore, there is a strong need to develop a uniform and reliable method for detecting dehydration in this population.”

Additionally, providers may become confused whether a study has tackled acute or chronic dehydration. Prevalence rates of chronic and acute dehydration in nursing homes residents ranged between 0.8% and 38.5%, according to the literature review.

“More clarity about the risk factors for dehydration in nursing homes is needed to support early, tailor-made care to prevent dehydration in this target group,” the authors added.