During the three-month study, published in the May issue of Journal of Clinical Nursing, 13 of the 18 patients in the intervention group put on weight, compared with just two of the 15 patients in the control group.
Patients who gained weight also displayed improved intellectual abilities.
“Weight loss is a common issue among people with dementia and in particular Alzheimer’s” explains lead researcher Anna-Greta Mamhidir from the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden.
“Meal environment, communication difficulties, loss of independence and confusion are just some of the factors that appear to contribute to this problem.
“Malnutrition can also lead to other serious issues, such as increased infection rates, delayed wound healing and increased risk of hip fractures.”
The aim of the study was to measure weight changes in patients with moderate and severe dementia and analyse whether providing staff training and a more supportive environment could lead to weight gain.
Two nursing home wards with similar staffing profiles and numbers of patients were selected. Both received meals from the same central kitchen.
The medical profiles of the two groups of patients were similar and drug regimes were unaltered during the study. Most of the patients had communication problems and memory loss and were physically dependent on staff.
Patients in the intervention group weighed between 31.5kg and 76kg at the start of the study, with an average weight of 55.9kg. By the end of the study this average had risen to 56.4kg.
When the team looked at individual patients they found that the largest weight gain in the intervention group was 7kg (15.4 pounds) and the smallest was 0.6kg (1.3 pounds).
Patients in the control group weighed between 45kg and 76.3kg at the start of the study, with an average weight of 62.5kg. This average fell to 58.4kg over course of the study.
Staff in the intervention group attended a one-week training course run by a psychologist and professor of nursing science. It comprised 20 hours of lectures and 18 hours of group discussion covering three key themes: delivering care in a way that promotes the patient’s integrity, how to communicate more effectively with patients with dementia and how to create a calmer and more homely environment.
During the study, the staff who had received training were asked to keep diary notes of any changes and they effect they had on patients. They also received support and encouragement from a research assistant, who spent most days on the ward, and a nurse researcher who visited the ward three to four times a week.
“We felt that this level of involvement in the project would make it easier for staff to accept and implement these new ideas” says Anna-Greta Mamhidir.
New pictures were placed on the dining room walls and staff worked with patients to print new patterns on curtains and tablecloths.
Patients’ rooms were given name plates, they were encouraged to have more private items in their rooms and staff wore brightly coloured clothes.
The prepared trays sent by the kitchen were replaced with serving bowls and patients were encouraged to help themselves.
No changes were made to the control ward.
Staff on the intervention ward noted in their diaries that the changes increased the contact between patients and staff and created a more pleasant atmosphere.
“Patients took part in activities, sat at the table together during mealtimes and served themselves food from bowls, encouraging them to be more independent and interact more with other patients” says Anna-Greta Mamhidir.
“The initiative was so successful that staff on the control ward were given the same training at the end of the study so that they could make the same improvements on their ward.”
Roger Watson, editor of Journal of Clinical Nursing, says that the research carried out by Mamhidir and colleagues makes a significant contribution to the field of food and dementia and has congratulated them for delving into what is a complex and difficult area.
“Societies are ageing and debates about food and old people and food and dementia – which are regular topics in the Journal – can only increase” he says.
“The current study shows a marked difference in weight change between the intervention and control groups and a strong link between weight gain and improved intellectual ability.
“I hope that it will stimulate further lines of enquiry as there is a vital need to improve nutrition among elderly patients, particularly those with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.”
Annette Whibley | alfa
Hot cars can hit deadly temperatures in as little as one hour
24.05.2018 | Arizona State University
3D images of cancer cells in the body: Medical physicists from Halle present new method
16.05.2018 | Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg
The more electronics steer, accelerate and brake cars, the more important it is to protect them against cyber-attacks. That is why 15 partners from industry and academia will work together over the next three years on new approaches to IT security in self-driving cars. The joint project goes by the name Security For Connected, Autonomous Cars (SecForCARs) and has funding of €7.2 million from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. Infineon is leading the project.
Vehicles already offer diverse communication interfaces and more and more automated functions, such as distance and lane-keeping assist systems. At the same...
A research team led by physicists at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has developed molecular nanoswitches that can be toggled between two structurally different states using an applied voltage. They can serve as the basis for a pioneering class of devices that could replace silicon-based components with organic molecules.
The development of new electronic technologies drives the incessant reduction of functional component sizes. In the context of an international collaborative...
At the LASYS 2018, from June 5th to 7th, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will be showcasing processes for the laser material processing of tomorrow in hall 4 at stand 4E75. With blown bomb shells the LZH will present first results of a research project on civil security.
At this year's LASYS, the LZH will exhibit light-based processes such as cutting, welding, ablation and structuring as well as additive manufacturing for...
There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?
At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...
So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics
Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...
25.05.2018 | Event News
02.05.2018 | Event News
13.04.2018 | Event News
25.05.2018 | Event News
25.05.2018 | Machine Engineering
25.05.2018 | Life Sciences