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Under nutrition is a major problem for people with dementia

11 February 2014

Report shows under nutrition is a major problem for people with dementia

A new report released today reveals that under nutrition is a major problem among people with dementia, and highlights the importance of nutrition in dementia care. Under nutrition can occur when food intake is inadequate to maintain general health.

Research reviewed in the international report finds that 20-45 percent of people in the community with dementia experience weight loss that could affect their general health, over a one year period. It also shows that up to half of people with dementia in care homes have an inadequate food intake.

The report titled ‘Nutrition and dementia: a review of existing research’ reviews existing international research into nutrition and dementia, and was commissioned by Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI) and global catering company Compass Group. The research was led by Professor Martin Prince from the King’s College London Global Observatory for Ageing and Dementia Care.

Alzheimers New Zealand has welcomed the new report, and says nutrition must be a key consideration in the care of people with dementia, whether they are living at home, or in a residential care facility.

“Quality nutrition is a significant challenge for people with dementia, and weight loss is very common. Dementia can affect their ability to feed themselves, to recognise their hunger levels and to understand the importance of adequate food and fluid intake,” says Alzheimers NZ Executive Director Catherine Hall.

“Under nutrition has a significant impact on the general health of a person with dementia and can worsen aspects of their condition such as confusion.

“Just like anyone else, every person with dementia is likely to have different likes and dislikes, and this is particularly true when it comes to food,” she says. “Every person will also have different needs, which could include anything from assistance with cooking and grocery shopping, to physical assistance with consuming their food.”

Alzheimers NZ says that with the numbers of people with dementia set to triple to 150,000 by 2050, it is essential that the quality of care for people with dementia continues to improve.

“The World Alzheimer Report 2013 revealed that by 2050 nearly half of all dependent older people likely to be living with dementia,” Ms Hall says.

“This means that we as a country have to lift our game in order to meet the specific needs of older people with dementia both now and into the future.”

The ADI report makes a series of recommendations to improve the nutrition of people with dementia. These include:

• The adoption of nutritional standards of care for people with dementia throughout the health and social care sectors. These could include regular monitoring of weight, as well as assessments of diet and feeding behaviours, and the need for feeding assistance.
• Training and support for family and professional carers so they understand and are able to meet the challenges involved in maintaining adequate nutrition for people with dementia.
• More information should be available for consumers about the risks and benefits of using supplements claimed to protect cognition in late life, before or after a dementia diagnosis.
• More research should be conducted into the components of a diet that might prevent dementia and the progression of mild cognitive impairment.

About Alzheimers NZ
Alzheimers NZ is a not-for-profit organisation focused on supporting all people affected by dementia. Our Wellington-based national operation supports a federation of 21 local Alzheimers NZ organisations throughout New Zealand, each of which is a member of Alzheimers NZ.

We represent people with dementia, their home-based carers, families/ whānau and friends by providing awareness raising, advocacy, information services and resources to and for the public generally, the Government, and health professionals and service providers in the dementia sector / community. We also provide information services and support for our member organisations.

Local Alzheimers organisations provide support, education, information and related services directly to members of their communities who are affected by dementia.


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