Report states that Nursing Home Patients with Dementia are Undernourished
A recent report noted by McKnight's, Longterm Care and Assisted Living journal, states that 30% of nursing home residents with dementia are undernourished. This is an alarming statistic happening worldwide, not just in America. Since the nursing home is supposed to provide all of the resident's medical supplies and fulfill all their living needs, what do you do if you suspect your loved one is undernourished?
First, let's note, that this report is not stating that long term care facilities are denying their residents' nutrition. Many people with dementia and Alzheimer's have difficulty swallowing, chewing, or with the textures of food. My family watched this first hand with my grandmother. As she "forgot" how to chew, she lost so much weight, compounded with muscle atrophy, that her dentures no longer fit her mouth. When they moved her to a liquid diet, she eventually "forgot" how to swallow and would not accept the liquid food. Tube feeding or the unmentionable alternative of starvation became the only options. No family should have to make this decision.
So the key is early prevention. If your loved one is in a nursing home or assisted living residence, you need to regularly check with the nurses about his state of health. What is his weight and how often is he weighed? Do they record how much he eats and how often? If you feel that your loved one is losing weight, don't wait until it's too late to speak with the doctor. Adding liquid nutritional supplements or nutritional puddings might be necessary as the liquid part of the diet instead of water or milk. Thickeners are also another additive that makes swallowing liquids easier and can be added to hot and cold liquids or pureed foods.
In many people with dementia, the mind goes before the body. Have the discussion with your loved ones about how you want to be cared for as you age. Do it while you still have a voice, both mentally and physically.