Differing Dementias and How to Address Mobility Issues

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By Matthew ChristopherJuly 15th, 2021

Differing Dementias and How to Address Mobility Issues

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by Matthew Christopher

PAC Lead Mentor

Dementia and mobility, knowing what to expect and how to adjust can make all the difference for you and those you care for.

We have come to learn that mobility changes and dementia go hand in hand, especially in certain types of dementias like frontotemporal dementia, Lewy Body dementia, and vascular dementia, just to name a few. Knowing what to expect as dementia progresses, the ability to change our approach, and the environment that the person is living with in this brain change can improve their ability to stay functional longer and protect the overall health of that person as well as the care partners involved.

Looking at the first two dementias we listed, Lewy Body dementia and frontotemporal dementia, both can be similar in how they progress and their effects of having slow stiff movements, sequencing issues, and dizziness on movement and mobility of the person. Having a good idea of the person’s abilities before this starts, a baseline, can be beneficial to see how things are progressing or where their skill level is at that moment so that you can support them in the areas they are struggling with, while still giving them the chance to complete what they can. Recognizing when these moments arise and being prepared for them, such as noticing the signs that they are getting dizzy and having a chair ready close by. By doing some warm up movements before to get the joints and muscles ready, then getting up and going somewhere, knowing it is not uncommon for their movements to be shaky and stiff when they first start to move. Allowing them the time they need to complete a movement, and limiting distractions during those movements so that they can focus on them.

Movement changes for vascular dementia mostly occur in correlation to the damage that is done to the brain from a stroke. So, if the damage is done on the right side of the brain, then likely the movement and mobility changes will mostly affect the left side of the body. Same goes if the damage was on the left side of the brain, then we will see changes in the right side of the body. This is due to the wiring crossing over to the other side from our brain to everything in the body below. As these strokes continue to occur, depending on their location, someone could gradually lose control of the arm and leg on one side of their body. Looking at what we can do to help someone in that position, we go back to the suggestion of getting a good baseline on them and an idea of what they were doing before. We can use this to keep an eye on how things progress with their movements and continue to encourage them to do everything they can for themselves even if it takes them more time to do it. The more someone is able to keep using what they have, the better their chance of maintaining these movements and staying as functional as possible for longer than they would have if we as the care partner just started doing it for them.

Looking at these three dementias, I am curious. What do you notice is a common suggestion of things that help with movement and mobility changes? Is it the suggestion of getting a baseline on this person as soon you can, or something else? Seeing that dementia and movement are both neurological based issues, why is it important for us to find out more about how the particular type of dementia you or your loved one has can progress? Could knowing what they may start to struggle with before it happens help you better prepare how and when to assist them so they stay high functioning for as long as they can? Maybe it would be good just to know what to expect so you can have services in place or at the ready for those changes when they come? How could getting connected with others who have gone through this or are currently going through something similar be of benefit to you in your situation? How about gaining some knowledge and insight on what may change? Looking at all of what we just thought about and everything discussed above, what is one thing you are wanting to try, or start looking into that could help you or your loved one with potential movement and mobility changes that could come with dementia?

For more information about the three types of dementias discussed in this article visit our website and search for all the resources we offer for Lewy Body dementia, frontotemporal dementia, and vascular dementia, to help you progress your knowledge and skill so you can better care for you or your loved one.

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