Undernutrition and weight loss are prevalent issues worldwide amongst persons living with dementia, often worsening as dementia progresses. 20 to 45% of persons living with dementia living in the community (outside institutions such as nursing homes) experience significant weight loss over a one-year period, while up to 50% of those residing in care homes have inadequate food intake.1 Consequences accompanying undernutrition and weight loss problems typically include frailty, poor skin health, increased rates of falls, hospitalisations, and mortality.1
The underlying reasons for undernutrition and weight loss in dementia are complex, multifactorial, and remain unclear. Declining cognitive function, changes in the brain’s central regulation of appetite, behaviour changes, and distractions in the environment may all play a role in reduced appetite, forgetting how to chew and swallow, and/or disrupted eating behaviour.1
Caregivers and care professionals supporting a person living with dementia should look into curbing undernutrition and weight loss issues, which can be avoided. Some examples of interventions include making improvements to the eating environment, tableware and utensils, and providing an adequate variety of food.
- Maëlenn, G., Martin, P., & Prina, M. (2014, February 11). Nutrition and dementia. Alzheimer’s Disease International. https://www.alzint.org/u/nutrition-and-dementia.pdf