Alzheimer's and Weight Loss
Question: Father is in a care home suffering from Alzheimer's. He is losing weight rapidly (12 kg) in the last fortnight. Mum goes everyday to make sure he has a good dinner and the staff are adamant he eats well at breakfast and teatime. The doctor says there is no medical reason why he is losing that much weight. We are very concerned. Is weight loss a general symptom of Alzheimer's? We do not seem able to get any concrete answers. Please help if you are able. Thank you very much .
Answer: According to the research I have seen, about 40% of people with Alzheimer's Disease experience significant weight loss. Some think it might have something to do with changes in the hypothalamus that accompany Alzheimer's Disease in some people. Just recently there has been much discussion about significant weight loss being a predictor of Alzheimer's Disease even in people who don't yet show other symptoms of the disease.
So yes, weight loss does seem to be a general symptom of Alzheimer's Disease, particularly in those who are in the latter stages.
That said, there are some things you should check. Are his teeth and mouth in good condition? If eating is painful he may not be taking as much nourishment as he needs.
Is he expending a lot of energy during the day? Alzheimer's patients who constantly pace, or who are agitated, use a considerable amount of energy. Their need for calories is sometimes huge. If he is very active physically he may simply not be able to eat enough to sustain the amount of energy he is burning.
Liquid nutritional meal supplements that are high in protein, calories and other necessary nutrients sometimes help for a time.
If your health system permits, you might ask for a consultation from a nutritionist familiar with the progression of Alzheimer's Disease. Sadly, sometimes there is simply nothing we can do to prevent weight loss in Alzheimer's Disease.