Longitudinal weight changes, length of survival, and energy requirements of long-term care residents with dementia

J Am Geriatr Soc. 1997 Oct;45(10):1189-95. doi: 10.1111/j.1532-5415.1997.tb03768.x.


Objective: We hypothesized that institutionalized patients with dementia, who frequently have feeding problems and require supervised and assisted feeding, would lose more weight during their residency than nondemented, independently functioning residents and have compromised survival. To test this hypothesis, we examined the survival and longitudinal changes in weight of two cohorts of institutionalized residents with dementia and compared these cohorts with a cohort of nondemented residents. We also measured the resting energy expenditures of a subset of the subjects with dementia as an indicator of their energy needs.

Design: A longitudinal cohort study with retrospective baseline chart review and subsequent follow-up of monthly weights and mortality over 4 years.

Setting: A 725-bed long-term care institution with specified levels of care.

Subjects: Two cohorts of residents with dementia, one consisting of subjects who required total care throughout their institutional stay (n = 31) and another group who did not initially require total care (n = 48); these were compared with a cohort with normal mentation who were functionally independent in their daily activities (n = 26). The total number of subjects was 105.

Measurements: Demographics, medical problems, and medications by chart review; functional and mental status evaluations; longitudinal monthly weights and mortality for the 48-month study period; and resting energy expenditures by indirect calorimetry.

Main results: Residents with dementia had lower weights on admission and throughout their stay than nondemented, independently functioning residents, and they were more likely to have a weight loss of 10 lbs or more at some point during the 4-year study period. However, their mean weights did not change during the study period. The mean survival from admission of those demented residents who died was more than 3 years. Resting energy expenditures of women residents with advanced dementia were 12% lower than predicted from the Harris Benedict equations.

Conclusion: Dementia is not necessarily associated with unremitting weight loss during institutionalization despite the frequent occurrence of feeding difficulties and temporary weight loss. This may be caused partly by the lower than expected resting energy expenditures and, hence, energy needs of affected residents as their dementia progresses. Demented residents weighed significantly less than nondemented, independently functioning residents throughout their institutional stay. Nevertheless, nursing staff are able to maintain weight and survival for extended periods even in very impaired residents.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Dementia / metabolism*
  • Dementia / mortality
  • Energy Metabolism*
  • Female
  • Geriatric Assessment
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Mental Status Schedule
  • Nutritional Requirements*
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Skilled Nursing Facilities
  • Survival Analysis
  • Weight Loss*