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Old 07-26-2011, 04:48 AM   #1
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Walking & stability

Is stumbling, falling & general muscular weakness part of dementia? My m in law has physically declined quite rapidly in the last 6 months. She 'forgets' to use her walking frame around the bedroom & has frequent falls- so far she hasn't hurt herself badly but once she required a few stitches in her head. Her carers insist she use it when walking to the dining room etc.

We flew interstate to visit them today & I was quite shocked at her physical weakness- she is unstable & exhausted & needs to stop & rest after a few steps with the walker. The incontinence is much worse too.... She has some memory of the past but calls my husband (her son) the wrong name often & also her husband too. She gets very agitated too. We were pretty surprised in the change in her- we see her every month or so. They are in care together but a long way away unfortunately.

Is this normal with dementia patients?- a sudden decline & a general weakness & stability? Thanks for any input!
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Old 07-26-2011, 07:26 AM   #2
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Re: Walking & stability

Quote:
Originally Posted by bubblegirl View Post
Is stumbling, falling & general muscular weakness part of dementia? My m in law has physically declined quite rapidly in the last 6 months. She 'forgets' to use her walking frame around the bedroom & has frequent falls- so far she hasn't hurt herself badly but once she required a few stitches in her head. Her carers insist she use it when walking to the dining room etc.

We flew interstate to visit them today & I was quite shocked at her physical weakness- she is unstable & exhausted & needs to stop & rest after a few steps with the walker. The incontinence is much worse too.... She has some memory of the past but calls my husband (her son) the wrong name often & also her husband too. She gets very agitated too. We were pretty surprised in the change in her- we see her every month or so. They are in care together but a long way away unfortunately.

Is this normal with dementia patients?- a sudden decline & a general weakness & stability? Thanks for any input!
Hi bubblegirl,

I don't know what your Mom's medical conditions are so she may have dementia all along or she may have a sudden illness.

However, dementia does make the elder lose the ability of walking in late stage.
My FIL has stage 7 regular onset Alzheimer's (there are 7 clinical stages). He had used a cane for 3 years until May. He fell getting out of his bed first. Now he can walk barely relying on the walker. Somehow he managed to get used to it now and calls for help when he gets out of bed. He cannot even use the walker fully - he needs people help him to turn the walker around. He also is weak and he gets up and sits down very slowly. He has no stroke that makes him stop walking although he has congestive heart failure.
Eventually his muscles will be weak and will need a wheelchair.

I don't know about other types of dementia, but your Mom needs to be diagnosed first.

Hugs,
Nina

Last edited by ninamarc; 07-26-2011 at 08:29 AM.

 
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Old 07-26-2011, 08:19 AM   #3
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Re: Walking & stability

The answer is yes Bubble. This disease takes away so very much, including their balance, strength, and ability to walk. This is not a sudden change but a deterioration over months (as so much of this disease). My Mom has always been a walker... 5 miles was a normal morning walk for her. She stopped her morning walk when she started getting lost. Now her quick step is more of a shuffle. At times she leans dramatically to one side because her center of balance is off. She has had five falls in the last few months. Recently I have noticed she is having trouble standing from a seated position. Her wheel chair is in her closet because I know that is coming. It is all a part of the disease progression.

Alzheimer's can come in bumps and spurts. Mom lost her ability to use language properly about two years ago. It went away rather quickly. Then she seemed to stabilize for a while. Now, over the last few months, the ambulation is deteriorating rather quickly. When you don't see them for a while, the changes can be shocking when in fact they have been a steady process.

A word about walkers. They only help stabilize but the loved one has to have the strength and ability to use them. They are not the cure all and can even be dangerous. They can actually make falls worse because not only does the loved one fall, but they frequently fall over or with the walker. With Dad, we used a chair/bed alarm to alert us that he was getting up and then helped him get to where he wanted to be. He was never certified "walker safe". He fell a number of times but never severely injured. With my FIL, he fell over his walker and broke his neck. It is my experience but walkers, for many that don't know or remember how to use them, are a hazard rather than a help.

I am sorry for her deterioration but please know that what you described is all part of the disease deterioration.

Love, deb

 
Old 07-26-2011, 01:41 PM   #4
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Re: Walking & stability

this horrible disease has those effects. it sounds like a nursing home with a lick down dementia unit is in store. the incontinence is the worst. good luck and keep posting.

 
Old 07-26-2011, 06:04 PM   #5
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Re: Walking & stability

Thank you ladies. Yes, she does have Alzheimer's disease & she has been in a nursing home since January & she is in 'high care'. We were just surprised that these walking/instability problems happened so very quickly between our visits! She hasn't had any other infections or illnesses so the cause must be the dementia. I suppose that the progression of the disease must vary with individuals.

The nursing home is very good at notifying us of any falls but we didn't make the connection why they were happening. It scares me how quickly all this is happening too- just a year ago she was going for walks & managing quite well at home- but with bad memory problems though. We were hoping that she would improve with nutritious meals being cooked for her & her care being taken care off but I guess it just doesn't happen that way always.

We are feeling the distance very mush at the moment. It takes us a 1 hour flight followed by a 2 hour car journey to reach them so it is difficult to fit into around work commitments. We try & fly there & back in 1 day & spend a few hours over the lunch hour with them. They are in care together but my f in law isn't nearly so advanced- he does has vascular dementia though.

I wonder if this fast progression of her Alzheimer's will continue for her to the end? or can it advance in spurts of fast & slow? I'm not expecting you good people to be able to answer that by the way- I am just wondering if all Alz. patients have the same rate of progression I guess.....

All a bit of a learning curve really- & not such a nice journey as I'm sure many here would agree!
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Old 07-26-2011, 10:18 PM   #6
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Re: Walking & stability

It's not a journey any one of us would chose but when present with the challenge we rise to the occasion!

With Mom, who has Alzheimer's it does seem to come in spurts... with ebbs and flows. I see Mom at least three times a week if not more. Like you MIL, my Mom started falling occasionally. Most were in the late afternoon or evening when she was tired. I blamed it on the time of day, or anything else I could think of. But when I took off the rose colored blinders I realized she was also having trouble getting up from a seated position. She is walking slower. She is shuffling more. Then there was the leaning to one side when she was walking. Yep the disease is taking little bites. Those little bites do seem to come and go for a while. She will have good days and not so good days. But when you look at it over time you see the digressing. Yep, the falls seem to herald the start of loss of ambulation.

Not all Alzheimer's patients have the same rate of progression and they do not lose the same things at the same time. Mom lost her ability to communicate effectively rather early... yet she has maintained her ability to ambulate long after the ability to communicate. There are a number of residents in Mom's unit that are in wheel chairs but can still communicate effectively. They can seem to stabilize for a while and then take a dramatic turn for the worse. Mom took a dive in cognitive ability two years ago then seemed to stabilize. In the last few months I have seen a dramatic decline.

My Dad has Vascular Dementia and it had a very different pattern of symptoms vs Alzheimer's. He was diagnosed in the late 1998's and lived until March 2010. Over those 12 years he was rather stable for most of them. Short term memory loss but retained reasoning, reading, understanding and the ability to manipulate numbers. He did have many more delusions. The last 6 months were a very rapid decline with delusions, falls, excessive sleeping, and a rapid loss of abilities. This related to A-fit and other vascular events. Mom in her Alzheimer's lost her ability to reason, understand, read, and manipulate numbers quickly.... along with the memory loss. Dad was continent even after Mom became incontinent. So it's impossible to compare the two.

You never know about the progression. A couple of months ago I would not have given Mom much time. But now, she's holding her own. Who knows what tomorrow will bring That's just the way it is.

Love, deb

 
Old 07-27-2011, 06:18 PM   #7
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Re: Walking & stability

Yes, it can happen so quickly. My mom was walking and talking last December...by the end of January she stopped walking all together. She has been wheel chair bound ever since. In February she was still talking. That is completely gone now with only a few words left in her memory bank.

That is quite some day trip you make to see them!! It makes me appreciate my 5 minute drive to see my mom even more!!

Spurts of fast and slow are a definite with this disease. Though it seems nearer to the end the fast goes faster. It becomes a tumble downhill. 8 /

Love, Meg

 
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