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Do Patients with Dementia Lose Weight?

Dementia can cause various side effects but did you know that weight loss is one of them? This brings up a number of other questions. Do patients with dementia lose weight? Is weight loss a symptom of dementia? What are some ways to treat losing weight with dementia? In this post, we will review what you need to know about dementia and weight loss.

Does Dementia Cause Weight Loss?

Can dementia cause weight loss? Dementia does not necessarily cause weight loss directly, but weight loss can become more common as the disease progresses. Since the brain regulates bodily functions — such as hunger — it makes sense why one’s weight would be affected by Alzheimer’s and dementia.

What is the Relationship Between Weight Loss and Dementia?

Why do Alzheimer's patients lose weight? The relationship between Alzheimer's and weight loss can be attributed to the disease’s side effects. The following dementia symptoms can potentially lead to weight loss:

  • Cancer

  • Chronic infections

  • Constipation

  • Dental issues

  • Depression

  • Diabetes

  • Difficulty chewing and swallowing

  • Dry mouth

  • End-organ diseases

  • Frequently pacing, wandering, and other motion activities can result in more calories being burned

  • Forgetting how to use utensils

  • Gastrointestinal disorders

  • Inability to communicate health problems that make it difficult to eat

  • Inability to recognize foods

  • Lack of healthy teeth or poor-fitting dentures

  • Not drinking or eating

  • Pain

Additionally, the medication one may take effects the relationship between weight loss and Alzheimer's. These medications include:

  • Bone and joint pain drugs. These are often used to treat osteoporosis, arthritis, lupus, and gout.

  • Cardiac drugs. These include drugs to treat chest pain, cholesterol issues, and high blood pressure.

  • Endocrine drugs. These include drugs that treat diabetes and thyroid disease.

  • Neurologic and psychotics. These include medications that treat depression, schizophrenia, anxiety, and other mental health issues.

  • Other medications. These can include over-the-counter drugs such as aspirin, cold medicine, and allergy relief tablets as well as alcohol and nicotine.

In the next section, we will review ways to treat dementia weight loss, including eating methods, medications, and doctors to see.

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Treating Dementia Weight Loss

Below are some steps one can take to help treat their loved one’s Alzheimer's weight loss:

  • Choose a plate that is a different color than the food so they can see it more easily

  • Discontinue medication associated with weight loss

  • Ask the doctor about appetite stimulants or growth hormone secretagogues

  • Provide finger foods that can be used without utensils

  • Show them how to use utensils and eat with them to help model healthy eating

  • Provide smaller meals and snacks, so it is less overwhelming to eat

  • Encourage adequate (and tasty) hydration

  • Visit the dentist to evaluate their oral health

  • Visit the eye doctor to determine if they are unable to see their food properly

  • Visit an occupational therapist to determine if there are assistive devices to help them eat

  • Evaluate their pain and mental health symptoms to determine if it’s affecting their appetite

  • Speak to your doctor about whether using a feeding tube is a viable and safe option