What to look for?
Physical Complaints | Common Signs
- Complains of headaches
- Slow movements (e.g. shuffling, dragging feet)
- Difficulty swallowing and chewing
- Weight loss
- Muscle twitching
- Stomach pains and constipation
- Shuffling or walking unsteadily
Physical Complaints | General Description
As a person ages there are many physical changes that their body will go through. However, a person with Alzheimer's disease will experience some of these changes differently.
Since, Alzheimer's disease affects many areas of the brain, problems with physical functioning can occur. This can lead to discomfort or even pain in the person you care for. Often the person you care for may become frustrated as a result of their decreased level of physical activity and functioning.
The loss of mobility associated with damaged areas in the brain can lead to even more physical complaints. Constipation causes stomach pain and often results from immobility, decreasing power of bowel muscles with age and as a side effect from medications. Eating problems can also occur, as the person you care for may have difficulty swallowing or chewing. This generally occurs in severe Alzheimer's disease. Additionally, in severe Alzheimer's disease, other automatic functions of the brain, such as the ability to walk, or control one's bladder or bowels have also been affected.
Sometimes, however, a physical complaint can occur as a brief disturbance when a person with Alzheimer's disease is ill for some reason. Common reasons include pneumonia or heart problems. Generally when the illness or health problem clears up, the physical complaint will go away.
In someone with dementia, shuffling or walking unsteadily often can occur on its own or can be part of a bigger picture known as Parkinsonism . Parkinsonism gets it name from sharing many features of Parkinson's disease . Parkinsonsim can occur as part of many dementias or can be an adverse drug reaction . Knowing the stage of the dementia is helpful to understanding what to make of the Parkinsonism.
In the early stages of dementia the family often notices subtle slowing before the doctor can detect it. This seems to be more common when people are in their late 70's or older. Usually at this stage the doctor will not be able to find other signs of Parkinsonism. In mild dementia, Parkinsonism can occur on its own or as a side effect of medications. The medications that are most commonly associated with causing Parkinsonism are major tranquilizers called neuroleptics, but some types of stomach medications such as Maxolon (Metoclopramide) can cause this too.
Another cause of Parkinsonism in mild dementia is dementia with Lewy bodies and of course Parkinson's disease dementia. Sometimes however Parkinsonism in mild dementia is simply part of Alzheimer's disease. In many studies, Parkinsonism in mild dementia seems to indicate a worse prognosis , but in a large Canadian study with mild dementia, Parkinsonism actually did better. In moderate or severe dementia Parkinsonism is much more common, but a review of medications to see if any are contributing to Parkinsonism can be helpful.
In todays busy world, keeping track of symptoms can be a challenge to say the least. That is why we have developed SymptomGuideTM. By taking a more active role, you can better understand how a symptom is affecting everyday life and you can communicate this knowledge with others involved.