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My partner, 85 years, was never fat. But as his memory loss has increased, he is getting thinner and thinner, despite eating a half container of ice cream every evening. He does not have other physical problems, such as a thyroid problem or diabetes.
I have seen this with my clients who have Alzheimers.
I would like to know about your experience with weight loss by a spouse or parent who has Alzheimers or memory loss due to aging. It would really be a huge help as I worry about his weight loss.
Thank you

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My wife, 76, has lost a lot of weight over the past decade. Partly on purpose, having been alarmed at weighing almost as much as I do. She accomplished this by skipping lunch. On our last visit to our doctor 3 months ago, the latter noticed that she had lost even more, dropping to 126 lbs. at 5'5". So the doctor told me to feed her an Ensure at every lunchtime, and we'll check it out next week. But she's still showing signs of dementia. Its progress is slow because of Namenda and Donezipil, but unless a way to reverse it is found, we'll be in big trouble.
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Oftentimes when elders live alone they just don't have the energy to cook for themselves. The Meals on Wheels are great initially, but fade in taste soon so that the elder doesn't even want to eat it.
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My Mom was always thin but she has lost more weight. After doing some research I ordered her Amazing Grass Green Superfood which contains healthy vitamins and minerals that my Mom mixes with goat milk (Meyenberg Powdered Goat Milk to be exact) and she loves drinking it. Sometimes she adds a banana to the smoothie. Now that my Mom has moved in with me I am cooking for her and she's eating better so I'm hoping she will put on some weight.
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AD, as my mother's memory loss and cognitive impairment progress, I notice a discrepancy in her weight. Her joints, particularly shoulders, and back are becoming bony, while the concentration of fat in her middle is rather high. She had a CT scan which revealed brain shrinkage and vascular changes. There is another variable - mom's sedentary life style, which has led to deconditioned muscles and atrophy. So, there could be a correlation between brain shrinkage from advanced dementia, of which one is memory loss, and loss of body weight which could be due to the dementia's effect on autonomic functioning or hypothalamus (I'm not sure if that's the correct area of the brain) that regulates weight. So both may be related to a third factor.
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They must be making a fortune for Ensure and Boost. Wish that they would select a healthier, less processed weight booster. It's amazing how many people fail to question their doctor's choices.
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My Mom loved french fries and ice cream toward the end. One thing I've heard too is people's taste buds don't work like they once did so adding something more flavorful to their food is a thought.

Also, when my Mom was still living it was brought to our attention by the health case worker we spoke to is when someone is old and weak, they may go to the kitchen with the intention of making themselves something to eat but may only have the energy to make a cup of tea and grab a biscuit. So having ready made food prepared ahead of time that just needs to be heated up is a thought.
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I know it is popular to diss boost and ensure type drinks on the forum, but there are many of us who are not into buying multiple ingredients then chopping, blending, and straining homemade smoothies. If your loved one doesn't mind the taste they are a nutrient dense way to pump up the calorie count, especially when you have a hard time getting them to take in enough.
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ADCaregivers: I know that you said he doesn't have thyroid problems, but are you ABSOLUTELY SURE he didn't have blood work done to determine if he was hyperthyroid? I would definitely ask his doctor to check or recheck that!
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Two things can happen. (well really 3 but we will wait on that)
1. As the person declines they forget how to eat or forget to eat.
In the late stages the body does not use food as fuel that way it did in the past so the nutritional needs are different. In particular as the person no longer is as mobile as in the past muscles begin to waste to the arms and legs begin to look much thinner. Then there is atrophy of other muscles, shoulders, in the back and in the neck and face.
2. In early stages the person my continue to eat thinking that they have not eaten. This can cause some weight gain. This can present a problem for the caregiver since it is more difficult to help the person move and if aid is needed for cleaning it makes it even more difficult. But as the stages progress they will begin to loose weight just due to atrophy of the muscles.
Last but not least...
The weight can stay pretty stable with diet and close monitoring. But at some point the weight loss will begin.
And towards the end does it really matter if your loved one wants ice cream for breakfast. If you are trying to keep weight on them give them a bowl of ice cream for breakfast. The issues of controlling cholesterol, and diabetes for that matter are far down on the list of worries. There is a good chance the Dementia will kill them before anything else, and personal opinion here I would rather have my loved one pass a bit faster due to a bowl of ice cream than linger another 6 to 12 months with dementia if that is what the outcome would be.
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CaregivingNYC, I doubt if they do read the labels, or if they do, they're probably not as cognizant or concerned as some consumers about all the "ingredients". Remember, these are often the people who think "medication" as a first response.

Or maybe the manufacturers of Boost and/or Ensure have a generous patronage program.

One of the local hospitals addressed the practice of pharmaceuticals and their reps patronizing, gifting and encouraging doctors to prescribe their meds. I don't recall the specific actions, but I do recall that some bans were put in place to control if nto prevent this eggregious practice.
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I'm not sure why doctors always recommend Boost and Ensure. Don't they read labels?
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Yes, it's very difficult to get enough calories into my father. He resists eating. Try high calorie protein powders. Weight loss is very common with memory loss.
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LS, amiodarone can also cause loss of taste and smell. Our neurologist alerted us as to its side effects.
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Living South, have you received any response as to why corn syrup is being added? I'm guessing that they'll avoid the whole high fructose corn syrup and GMO issues entirely and provide some blah answer.
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I read that certain BP medicines can cause loss of taste, and my mother is currently taking 3. She has lost 40 pounds in only seven months, and does have mild dementia. Her doctor does not give any real answers to this. I wrote to some of the drink supplement companies and asked them why they were putting corn syrup in their shakes. I think I will be trying the whey powder or creatine powder instead.
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I did not mean to imply lifting weights a la Arnold Schwarzenegger! Weight bearing exercises include walking and tai chi. Standing or sitting upright while holding proper posture can be considered a weight bearing exercise.
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My wife, who has severe short-term memory problems (her big sister has full-blown Alzheimer's, as did their mother and grandmother). She can still drive and cook, which is a blessing. But she too has lost an alarming amount of weight, starting about 8 years ago. Much of the weight loss she accomplished by not eating lunch. But on our last visit to our doctor, it turned out that she had lost close to 80 lbs. over the course of 8 years, or 10 lbs. a year. Our doctor told me to give her an Ensure or a Boost every day at lunchtime. I believe it has slowed down her deterioration, to the point where she's doing much better than her sister did. The latter stopped using a computer at least 6 years ago. Her 2 children, now in their 50s, do their best to help their parents (their father also has mental problems, though probably not Alz).
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ADCaregivers: One HUGE reason for an elder's weight loss is another loss. That loss is the loss of their olfactory sense. That's a BIG DEAL. No longer can they smell bad odors; they also can't smell good food. Thus, they aren't hungry. My late mother was hypothyroid, but she was thin! She should have been obese!
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My husband was diagnosed with Alzheimer's in 2007 and really took a turn for the worse last year. He lost 50 pounds last year even though he was eating healthy, nutritious meals. All the doctors have said it is to be expected with Alzheimer's. My gut is telling me that something else is going on, but they have not been able to find anything. Most of the medical professionals have told me the weight loss is just the body shutting down and that there is really nothing they can do about it. Unfortunately, with all of the stress he lost 50 and I gained 20! Good luck to you and your family.
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My dad has lost a lot with-in three years after his falls, but he lost again quickly last year. He used to be 180 lbs prior to 84 years old. Now, he is 130 lbs at 89 years old. Also, he smokes. He eats less that he used too. I'm trying to remind him to drink Boost. It's very hard to be a care giver especially I'm disabled as well.
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What he is losing is muscle mass, and all that ice cream is probably overloading his pancreas increasing bile which will lead to weight loss. Having dementia is going to make his body shrink, so there is nothing you can do about that except to give him as much and what he wants to eat for the time he has remaining. This disease is never easy on us who are watching our loved ones waste away. Keep loving him...
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The mildest, most effective exercise for Seniors that I have found is Tai Chi Chih, developed by Justin Stone. It is called "meditation in movement" and is slow, relaxing and is NOT weight bearing. Holding the slow positions builds up strength.Those who are weak or have dizziness can begin sitting in a chair and later may be able to do the positions standing. There are YouTube videos demonstrating this and when caregivers do it along with the patient or in a group it is most effective and not at all difficult.
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My dad lost nearly half his body weight in just a few years. We thought it was from thyroid, since the doc found a lump on his throat. But the tests came back negative for any thyroid issues. Mom did everything she could to get him to put back on some pounds...added ensure, more small meals through out the day, encouraged his naps but when he died he was a walking skeleton. We could never figure out why he lost that weight.
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Our registered dietitian (RD) warned me about those drinks. She uses them only as a short-term solution to get someone through a tough time (like chemo). RDs are trained to help us make the proper combinations of fruits, vegetables, fats, and protein powders that promote absorption and deliver nutrients.

That said, our RD also asks about constipation, water intake, sunlight exposure, physical activity, and bowel movements before checking weight.

Those drinks are loaded with sugar because bitterness is what people with dementia often taste and unless there's enough sugar to cover up the bitter, they reject the food. But sugar is like crack for the brain. It has no nutritional value and increases cravings for more sugar.
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Caring for Two, the ingredients in the Boost type drinks are the primary reason why I don't buy them for my father. Corn syrup, if it's the high fructose version, isn't healthy, and may have been derived from genetically altered corn crops. Sugar instead of stevia or a natural sweetener - another reason not to buy it.

My sister lost weight and appetite during her last chemo sessions. She craved salty foods such as sausage. I did find that thickened liquids such as pear and apricot nectars appealed to her.

CURE magazine has had articles about taste change, lack of appeal of food, and weight loss from chemo. I've found it to be an excellent source for all levels of articles on chemo and its side effects. There's an online website, but caregivers and those with cancer can order a hard copy subscription for free.
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It's not just weight loss it's also loss of muscle. Bone loss is another consideration. Without weight-bearing exercises, bones become brittle. The body needs exercise - movement, physical activity - in order to function properly like absorbing nutrients. And the colon requires stimulation in order to reabsorb fluids and process waste products from the body for elimination. Without both food and a fitness regimen - even 5 minutes a few times a day especially after meals - elders will continue to lose bone density, lose muscle mass, and lose weight.
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I'm interested in this subject too. My hubby is losing weight although he has a good appetite. He is 90 yo, no Alzheimers but some age-related memory loss, advancing Parkinsons symptoms including mild dementia but no swallowing problems, and a very recent diagnosis of an aggressive form of lymphoma. His weight loss could be from several causes, but in trying to maintain his weight I asked the nutritionist at the cancer center for a recipe. She told me that the supplements like Boost Plus are generally better balanced nutrition than homemade smoothies even though the first four ingredients are water, corn syrup, sugar and vegetable oil. She encouraged me to stick with those commercially prepared supplements. I have only just started this so have not seen a halt to the weight loss yet.
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No one has mentioned decreased exercise. As my husband's memory has declined so has his activity and his ability to do things he used to like doing Can exercise be part of this problem?
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I found a great link that covers a lot of information, but we are not supposed to post links. I'll try to post it to you directly.
You may also find it by using key words "nutrition dementia international. It's an ALZ site that is 88 pages long.

It says that there is no evidence that supplements do much good helping those who are losing weight due to dementia. Hmmm.....it's a long booklet. It's very detailed.
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My husband lost a lot of weight -- more than 50 pounds -- early in the course of his Lewy Body Dementia. Fortunately he could spare them. His loss was not in proportion to his decreased appetite. He was eating considerably more than one would expect with that kind of weight loss. I'd say his body was simply not able to use all the calories he took in.
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