Dementia patients frequently lose weight regardless of whether they are cared for
at home or in a long-term care facility. Weight loss can be distressing to family
and hunger can cause agitation in the Alzheimer patient. Most Alzheimer patients
lose weight for a variety of reasons and accurate diagnosis is the first step in an
effective plan to maintain adequate body mass. The clinician or family member
must approach weight loss in a systematic way to identify simple correctable
causes of weight loss. Treatment teams should focus on fluid, fiber and calories
in the dementia patients. Dementia patients need proper hydration, sufficient fiber
to assure proper caloric function and sufficient quantities of food to maintain
weight and nutrition.
Dementia can be divided into three stages early, middle and late. The causes of
weigh loss in each phase may differ. The boundary between early and middle
stage dementia is vague. Early stage patients are usually forgetful and sometimes
anxious. These patients function reasonably well with minimal supervision.
Middle stage patients have multiple intellectual losses and need extensive
assistance with daily living activities. Late stage patients have severe intellectual
limitations and cannot care for themselves.
Early stage dementia patients usually maintain adequate body weight. Physical
problems such as cancer, diabetes or thyroid disease should be considered in any
mildly demented patient who is losing weight. Depression is common in early
dementia and will result in weight loss as a result of anorexia. Early stage
dementia patients should be capable of describing symptoms such dental problems,
swallowing difficulties, abdominal pain etc., that cause patients to stop eating.
These patients should maintain adequate fluid, fiber and nutrition.
Middle stage dementia patients frequently lose weight. Weight loss results in
muscular weakness, falls,