Swedish researchers have found a way to increase the weight of people with Alzheimer's, by improving communication and patient involvement, altering meal routines and providing a more homely eating environment
During the three-month study, published in the May issue of Journal of Clinical Nursing, 13 of the 18 patients in the intervention group put on weight, compared with just two of the 15 patients in the control group.
Patients who gained weight also displayed improved intellectual abilities.
"Weight loss is a common issue among people with dementia and in particular Alzheimer's" explains lead researcher Anna-Greta Mamhidir from the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden.
"Meal environment, communication difficulties, loss of independence and confusion are just some of the factors that appear to contribute to this problem.
"Malnutrition can also lead to other serious issues, such as increased infection rates, delayed wound healing and increased risk of hip fractures."
The aim of the study was to measure weight changes in patients with moderate and severe dementia and analyse whether providing staff training and a more supportive environment could lead to weight gain.
Two nursing home wards with similar staffing profiles and numbers of patients were selected. Both received meals from the same central kitchen.
The medical profiles of the two groups of patients were similar and drug regimes were unaltered during the study. Most of the patients had communication problems and memory loss and were physically dependent on staff.
Patients in the intervention group weighed between 31.5kg and 76kg at the start of the study, with an average weight of 55.9kg. By the end of the study this average had risen to 56.4kg.
When the team looked at individual patients they found that the largest weight gain in the intervention group was 7kg (15.4 pounds) and the smallest
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