Peter Heath

the hypothalamus

The hypothalamus lies deep in the brain and controls body temperature, appetite, thirst, sleep cycles and patterns of sleep. Typically its functions are affected in different ways over the course of the disease. In eating, for example, the question, "When are we going to eat?" is well known to caregivers and is a favourite for driving newbie caregivers 'up the wall' in the early stages of the disease. The individual is functioning at the level of a two to four-year-old and due to the damage to the hypothalamus is also running on a short-term memory limit of about five minutes. The individual does not remember eating and the hypothalamus is not sending a full signal.

At later stages, individuals may lose their appetite completely and might not want to eat much at all. Now the damaged hypothalamus is not sending a hunger signal and the individual, if not encouraged to eat might lose as much as 20% to 30% of body weight.

I understand experienced caregivers have their ways and means - some creating dishes as fantastic as ketchup and ice cream! Apparently, this startling speciality is demolished by some enthusiasts.