Protein Needs and Senile Dementia
In addition to Alzheimer’s disease, the most serious and the most common of the progressive dementias, there are a number of other diseases that may cause senile dementia, or in layman’s terms, confusion that is beyond the normal for aging adults. While it is common for some minor confusion or memory problems to develop in older adults, senile dementia goes beyond what is considered to be normal. Four to five percent of Americans of both genders, over the age of 65 have some degree of mental and intellectual impairment (Source: MacLean, ed. 1993).
Besides Alzheimer’s disease which is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States, (behind heart disease, cancer and stroke) there are a number of curable or treatable causes for senile dementia including over medication, often seen in patients in long term care facilities, malnutrition and dehydration. Other causes that can cause the symptoms that mimic the dementia related to Alzheimer’s disease include: depression, chronic alcoholism, infections, heart disease, kidney failure, thyroid disease, head injury and anemia.
Another cause can be stroke which affects at least two million American adults. Twice as many women as men are at risk or have had a stroke. Stroke is yet another common cause of confusion or mental impairment in the elderly. Another disease, Parkinson’s disease may also cause some senile dementia as well. Parkinson’s is thought to affect one person out of forty in the over sixty age group. It is recognized most often by tremor, rigidity and a bent posture.
No matter what the reason for the dementia, there are generally three steps to getting the person back to their best mental health: address the cause, increase the nutrition and increase the mental stimulation for the patient.
Addressing the Cause
While there are a number of conditions that can be treatable, even curable, nothing can happen if the cause is not discovered. Because there is no definitive test for Alzheimer’s disease, it is most often found in the process of ruling out other diseases and conditions. Depression is one of the major causes for senile dementia and should be ruled out first. There are many causes of depression in this age group including declining physical health, loss of family members, lack of money and the need for more assistance than they are comfortable with.
Another common cause for dementia is the incidence of blood clots in the brain which may cause a condition that is sometimes called “pseudo dementia” because the symptoms tend to diminish once surgery or other treatments are started.
Improper nutrition and fluid intake, however is one of the most common causes of senile dementia and is often seen in those who are living in nursing homes or other long term care facilities. The longer that the patient is living in the nursing home, the higher the risk of developing nutrition and dehydration related impairment. Dehydration plays a role in senile dementia because it affects the electrolyte balance. Without proper nutrition, the electrolyte imbalance is likely to become even more affected and the confusion can progress even further. In addition to symptoms of confusion, an electrolyte imbalance can lead to more serious problems including irregular heart rhythms which can in turn cause heart attack.
High blood pressure, especially when it is not monitored and not controlled can also cause senile dementia and puts the person at a much higher risk for stroke. Kidney disease, which may also be affected by high blood pressure, can cause some dementia as the kidneys start failing to sufficiently filter the blood and fluid levels in the body becomes affected. Kidney disease affects the blood pressure, but blood pressure also affects the kidneys: it is important to monitor the blood pressure, especially in elderly patients who are deemed to have pre-hypertension.
It is important to remember that while some memory lapses may be normal, serious mental impairment or signs of dementia are not just the course of nature and a normal sign of aging. Any signs of deteriorating mental status should be investigated immediately.
Increasing the Nutrition
Many senior citizens live alone, on very tight budgets. They are often lonely, depressed and have a physical limitation that can prevent them from getting the food that they need. When they do have food, they are often uninterested in eating not only because of depression or illness but because of a slowing in the metabolism that may leave them with little appetite to speak of. For these people, it may become more and more difficult to find the desire to eat, just as much as finding the actual food to eat.
Tastes change as we age and foods that once were favorites may hold little appeal. The sheer act of cooking a meal may be exhausting physically as well as a reminder of the crushing loneliness that the person feels. They stop eating or in other cases may opt to only eat unhealthy snack foods once or twice a day.
A protein supplement is a perfect way for the older adult to get good nutrition into their diet so that they can stay strong and healthy both mentally and physically. The life expectancy for the average American has increased steadily in recent years, not only because of advances in medicine but in increased knowledge about the importance of good nutrition as well as physical and mental activity. There are many different types of protein supplements, however, liquid supplements might be far easier for the senior to manage and can be a faster way to get the most nutrition, including increased protein into their diet.
The best of the liquid supplements are: protein shakes, powders and the liquid protein supplement shots. Protein shakes are ready to drink and come in the common flavors that the senior will be familiar with. They boost protein intake as well as a number of additional nutrients and can get the senior at least close to a healthy calorie intake for the day.
Protein Supplement Powders
Whey protein powder is one of the best of the four types (soy, rice and egg are the other three) and comes in two types, the concentrate (30-85% protein) and the isolate (90% protein). Both are derivatives of milk, a byproduct of the making of cheese with the isolate having far less lactose and therefore better for those who might be mildly lactose intolerant.
Whey protein powder has a number of benefits for the aging adult including the ability to slow both muscle and bone loss overall. It also has a number of protective anti-oxidant and anti-microbial properties that may improve the immune system and plays a role in the care of heart disease and blood pressure regulation (Source: Whey Protein Institute).
Soy protein powder also has a number of heart related benefits and has been shown to reduce the blood cholesterol that is a major risk factor in developing heart disease including heart attack and stroke.
The liquid protein supplement shot might be appealing to the senior citizen because they are small. Profect from Protica is only 2.9 fluid ounces, but has a major nutritional punch: it is 100 calories, 25 grams of protein, zero carbs, zero fats, 100% of the day’s Vitamin C, 10% of the daily supply of the Vitamin B complex.
Written by: Jim Duffy