Vienna (OTS) – By providing people with dementia with dietetic support that meets their needs, not only can deficiency symptoms be avoided, but hospital stays can be shortened, the quality of life and independence of those affected can be maintained and, ultimately, costs can be saved.
The Austrian Association of Diaetologists is therefore appealing for the expansion of diaetological positions in geriatric departments and care facilities and for health insurance companies to cover the costs of diaetological services.
Weight loss and deficiency symptoms with serious consequences
The causes of malnutrition in dementia are varied. On the one hand, the progressive functional and cognitive impairment means that those affected can no longer adequately look after themselves (shopping, cooking). On the other hand, altered smell and taste perception, swallowing problems or increased energy requirements due to hyperactivity (e.g. constant wandering) are among the most common causes that lead to food intake that does not meet the needs. Almost 50% of those affected with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s dementia experience unwanted weight loss.
A lack of important and health-preserving nutrients accelerates the progression of the disease and significantly increases susceptibility to infections, muscle loss and the risk of mortality. Accompanying nutritional therapy and a regular check of nutritional status should therefore take place from the time dementia is diagnosed in order to prevent malnutrition or reduce its effects.
Dietary adjustment facilitates adequate food intake
The professional group of dietologists has the appropriate skills – from determining nutrient requirements to creating individual nutritional therapy concepts – to support those affected by dementia and their (caring) relatives.
Frequent snacks, finger food, adjusting the consistency, enriching the food or using drinking foods are just some of the tried and tested methods to make it easier to eat enough food. Therefore, comprehensive nutritional therapy care should be an integral part of the treatment concept in hospitals, nursing homes and other care facilities in order to ensure optimal care for people with dementia.
“Nutrition is the first medicine”
The Austrian Association of Diaetologists therefore appeals to those responsible for health and social policy to push forward the urgently needed expansion of diaetological positions in clinics and care facilities and to ensure that diaetological services are reimbursed by statutory health insurance providers in private practice.
The association president, Prof. Andrea Hofbauer, MSc, MBA, as well as the experts from the association’s “Geriatrics and Nutrition” working group are available to answer any questions or provide more detailed information.
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SRIRAM, K., SULO, S., VANDERBOSCH, G., PARTRIDGE, J., FELDSTEIN, J., HEGAZI, R. A. & SUMMERFELT, W. T. 2017. A Comprehensive Nutrition-Focused Quality Improvement Program Reduces 30-Day Readmissions and Length of Stay in Hospitalized Patients. JPEN J Parenter Enteral Nutr, 41, 384-391.
Volkert, D., Sieber, CC, & Wirth, R. (2016). Nutrition for dementia. DMW-German Medical Weekly, 141(11), 762-766
Volkert, D. (2020). Current ESPEN guidelines Clinical nutrition and hydration in geriatrics. Current nutritional medicine, 45(05), 348-355.
Volkert, D. (2023). Nutrition and Dementia–Dementia and Nutrition. Therapeutic review, 80(5), 217-225.
Questions & Contact:
Mag. and Eva Maria Krappinger, MA
Tel.: 01/602 79 60
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