Dementia patients susceptible to malnutrition

Confusion and loss of memory are two common symptoms of dementia. According to a recent report, malnutrition is also one of its side effects.

Confusion and loss of memory are two well-known symptoms of dementia. According to a recent report, however, malnutrition is also one of its side effects.

While weight loss is a common occurrence as people get older. Many elderly people undergo a substantial loss of weight and lack of nutrition due to the complications that arise from dementia. Around 800,000 people in the UK are living with dementia, according to The Telegraph, and Alzheimer's Disease International cites 7.7 million new cases each year worldwide. The issue of dementia, and the associated problem of malnourishment, is a global one.


Growing complications

According to the report, many elderly people who are undernourished may find themselves increasingly frail, less mobile and more prone to falling. Additionally, they may experience exacerbation of current health conditions. Yet, despite the importance of a healthy diet, many seniors struggle to get their required nutrition due to a variety of potential issues, among them problems swallowing, mental or neurological diseases, side effects of certain medications or social and economic factors.

People may be able to reduce the risk of developing dementia with the proper diet early on in life, according to the report, but once people develop the condition, the disease only makes it more difficult to maintain healthy eating habits. Loss of motor function and cognitive impairment may make it difficult for someone with dementia to find, and prepare food. The situation is only worsened by the potential loss of taste or smell, making food less appetising.


Many at risk

The issue of malnutrition among the elderly is by no means restricted to those people with dementia. As The Guardian reported in 2013, approximately 3 million people in the UK either live with malnourishment or are at risk of being underfed. ADI cited that undernutrition is affecting up to 10 per cent of older people living at home, 30 per cent in care homes and 70 per cent of those hospitalised. However, research by BAPEN, a charity centred on malnutrition awareness, found that of the 1 million older people living with malnutrition, only 5 per cent are in residential care homes, and only only 2 per cent in hospitals. That means that the large majority of those people in the UK currently malnourished are living at home, possibly without access to professional care.

If you are concerned about your loved one's daily nutrition, and would like to chat, feel free to contact us. From 10th to 16th March, Sunrise communities across the UK are taking part in Taste of Sunrise - a chance to call into any Sunrise community, maple home-cooked food and talk to our chefs about the importance of balanced nutrition for older people, including those with special dietary needs.