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Arch Gerontol Geriatr. 2010 Mar-Apr;50(2):156-64. doi: 10.1016/j.archger.2009.03.003. Epub 2009 Apr 23.

Developing a quick and practical screen to improve the identification of poor hydration in geriatric and rehabilitative care.

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Nutrition and Dietetics, Princess Alexandra Hospital Health, Ipswich Rd, Woolloongabba, Brisbane, 4103, Australia.


Dehydration has been associated with increased morbidity and mortality. Dehydration risk increases with advancing age, and will progressively become an issue as the aging population increases. Worldwide, those aged 60 years and over are the fastest growing segment of the population. The study aimed to develop a clinically practical means to identify dehydration amongst older people in the clinical care setting. Older people aged 60 years or over admitted to the Geriatric and Rehabilitation Unit (GARU) of two tertiary teaching hospitals were eligible for participation in the study. Ninety potential screening questions and 38 clinical parameters were initially tested on a single sample (n = 33) with the most promising 11 parameters selected to undergo further testing in an independent group (n = 86). Of the almost 130 variables explored, tongue dryness was most strongly associated with poor hydration status, demonstrating 64% sensitivity and 62% specificity within the study participants. The result was not confounded by age, gender or body mass index. With minimal training, inter-rater repeatability was over 90%. This study identified tongue dryness as a potentially practical tool to identify dehydration risk amongst older people in the clinical care setting. Further studies to validate the potential screen in larger and varied populations of older people are required.

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