'Malnutrition risk' over dementia
Published on 13 February 2014 02:00 PM
More must be done to prevent malnutrition among people with dementia, health experts have warned.
Research suggests hundreds of thousands of sufferers could be affected, many of them in hospitals and care homes.
Figures from France showed clinically significant weight loss was observed in around 45% of people with mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease.
Alzheimer's Disease International (ADI) and the Compass Group believe a similar number could be affected in the UK.
Their findings indicate that malnutrition affects up to 10% of older people living at home, 30% of those living in care homes and 70% of older people in hospital.
The researchers wrote: 'Consequences include frailty, reduced mobility, skin fragility, an increased risk of falls and fractures, exacerbation of health conditions and increased mortality.'
Some 800,000 people in the UK have some form of dementia, with more than half suffering from Alzheimer's disease. Around 1.7 million people are expected to have dementia by 2051.
1.3m people over 65 suffer from malnutrition
Age UK estimates that 1.3 million people over the age of 65 suffer from malnutrition, with the vast majority (93%) living in the community.
Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK, says: 'Malnutrition in many older people in the community, care homes and in hospitals is often left undetected.
'Health professionals and those in social care need to get better at spotting the signs and then making sure that a suitable care plan is put in place to ensure those at risk of malnutrition do not slip through the gaps between services and get consistent treatment and support.
'It is also important that older people, along with their friends, family and health care professionals challenge assumptions around malnutrition and don't ignore the problem. For example, people shouldn't assume that losing weight is automatically part of ageing. Equally, if people are struggling to cook meals or start to lose their appetite they should consider whether they need extra support or potentially medical advice.'
Care minister Norman Lamb said failings that may lead to people being malnourished or dehydrated were 'entirely unacceptable'.
'The law requires that care homes must ensure residents receive enough to eat and drink and we expect the Care Quality Commission (CQC) to take swift action when this is not the case,' he said.
'We want everyone to get better care, which is why the CQC are bringing in new rules so that it can crack down on poor care more effectively and why we're taking action so that company directors will be personally responsible for the quality of care their organisation provides.'
Copyright Press Association 2014