Home' Intouch : In Touch Winter 2016 Contents 12 IN TOUCH WINTER 2016
Malnutrition in people with dementia
living at home is a critical issue that can
signifcantly impact the person’s health
and the course of the disease. Despite
this, it is given little attention, and current
aged-care reforms could make the
situation worse, new research has found.
Dementia and Nutrition in the Home, a
discussion paper released by Alzheimer's
Australia NSW, called on the Federal
Government to urgently address the issue
of dementia and malnutrition. It also calls
for funding information on nutrition for
consumers, and community-based aged
care and support workers.
The discussion paper was co -funded
by Calvary Community Care and Anglican
Retirement Villages (ARV). It was also
conducted with the assistance of Meals
on Wheels NSW.
The research found that in Australia,
the prevalence of malnutrition in the
community is estimated to be 10 to
30 per cent, with older adults at higher
nutritional risk, and higher rates among
older people with dementia.
International research has found that
under-nutrition is the most common
nutritional problem, affecting up to 10
per cent of older people living at home,
30 per cent of those living in care
homes and 70 per cent of hospitalised
Alzheimer's Australia NSW CEO The
Hon. John Watkins AM says proper
nutrition is a basic human right, but
is it being overlooked in people with
dementia living at home.
"Every person with dementia will have
diffculty with nutrition at some point,”
John says. “That might be either diffculty
with eating or in being able to ensure they
are getting balanced, nutritious meals
on a day-to-day basis. However, this
research has found a shockingly low level
of awareness and attention given to this
issue, and very few appropriate resources
available to help prevent malnutrition."
Cheryl De Zilwa, the CEO of Calvary
Community Care and the National
Director of Community Care, says support
workers and other professionals who
provide in-home care can play a key role in
identifying the warning signs that a person
is not eating correctly.
"They are in the home on a regular
basis and simple actions like checking
what is in the fridge or pantry and
discussing meals can help with early
intervention strategies," Cheryl says.
Rob Freeman, the CEO of ARV, says
dementia presents particular challenges
in ensuring a balanced diet is not only
provided, but also eaten. "This discussion
paper is a timely reminder of the
importance of keeping nutrition at the
forefront of care delivery," Rob says.
Les MacDonald, the CEO of Meals on
Wheels in NSW, said the organisation is
happy to support such important research.
"This is clearly an issue of concern and
an area that needs much more attention,"
Les says. "We, too, are concerned that
policy changes identifed in the research
may make things worse and urge policy
makers to ensure these concerns are
"Pleasingly, since the research
was published the Commonwealth
Government provided funding to the
Australian Meals on Wheels Association
to develop national nutrition guidelines
for home-delivered and centre-based
meals," says Brendan Moore, Alzheimer's
Australia NSW General Manager -- Policy,
Research and Information.
A copy of the discussion paper
is available at: https://nsw.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
PROPER NUTRITION IS CRITICAL FOR
PEOPLE LIVING WITH DEMENTIA.
QI’ve been caring for my
mum at home for more
than two years, and I'm starting
to get emotionally exhausted.
When will I know it's time
for my mum to move into
residential aged care?
Making the decision to fnd an
alternative to caring for a person
with dementia at home can be
one of the most diffcult decisions
families and carers make. Only you
will know when the time is right.
It might be that you feel you can no
longer cope, or that you no longer
have the energy required to provide
the best possible care for your
mum. Whatever your thoughts,
you would defnitely beneft from
discussing this with your mum's
GP, other family and friends, your
local Aged Care Assessment
Team/Service (ACAT/ACAS) and
one of the Dementia Advisors at
the National Dementia Helpline.
There is no wrong decision if you
have your mum's interests at heart.
QMy husband has
Alzheimer's and I can't
seem to stop him from
driving. Any suggestions?
This is a very delicate and
difficult issue for many families.
The main consideration here
should be safety; you need to
keep your husband safe, but you
also need to be mindful of other
people on the road that could
be affected by your husband's
driving capacity. What you
could do first is talk to his GP or
healthcare team about having
him re-assessed for driving. It
could be that he is OK to drive,
but that special limitations need
to be placed on where he drives
and/or with whom. Whatever
the case, please remember that
if anyone suffers from a medical
condition that might affect their
capacity to drive, there is an
obligation to advise Roads and
To talk about your feelings and
how dementia affects you, call
the National Dementia Helpline:
1800 100 500
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