Objective: Alzheimer patients (AD) are known to be at risk for malnutrition and their older spouses may also have nutritional problems. The aim of our study was to clarify the association of caregivers' sex on the nutrient intake of AD couples.
Setting: Our study uses the baseline data of a randomized nutritional trial exploring the effectiveness of nutrition intervention among home-dwelling AD patients.
Participants: The central AD register in Finland was used to recruit AD patients living with a spousal caregiver, 99 couples participated in our study.
Measurements: Nutritional status was assessed using the Mini-Nutritional Assessment (MNA). Nutrient intakes for both AD patients and their spouses were calculated from 3-day food diaries.
Results: The mean age of caregivers and AD spouses was 75.2 (SD 7.0) and 77.4 years (SD 5.6), respectively. According to the MNA, 40% of male and 52% of female AD spouses were at risk for malnutrition. Among male caregivers, the mean energy and protein intakes were 1605 kcal (SD 458) and 0.93 g/body kg (SD 0.30), whereas the respective figures for their female AD spouses were 1313 kcal (SD 340) and 0.86 g/body kg (SD 0.32), respectively. Among female caregivers, the mean energy and protein intakes were 1536 kcal (SD 402) and 1.00 g/body kg (SD 0.30), whereas the respective figures for their male AD spouses were 1897 kcal (SD 416) and 1.04 g/body kg (SD 0.30). The interaction between male caregiver sex and lower energy (p<0.001) and lower protein intake (p=0.0048) (adjusted for age and MMSE) was significant. Similar differences between caregiver sexes were observed with the intake of various nutrients.
Conclusions: A gender difference exists in the ability to cope with caregiver responsibilities related to nutrition. A need exists for tailored nutritional guidance among older individuals and especially among male caregivers.