As the brains cells deteriorate in those affected by dementia, various physical problems also occur because the brain is no longer able to control the body as efficiently, which affects overall mobility.
Because the affected person has difficulty controlling movements, he or she begins moving more slowing. This slowness of movement is sometimes described as Parkinsonism, and though the term is related to Parkinson's disease, it is not the same thing as the person with movement difficulties does not necessarily have Parkinson's.
Some of the slower movements that may be noticed are taking shorter steps or a longer time to reach a destination or using a series of small, shuffling movements to turn around instead of pivoting on their feet as before. Individuals also may have trouble starting to walk from a standing position or getting up out of a chair. There may be a general stiffness in the body, and the person tends to have a stooped posture or walks with a limp.
These conditions lead to less coordination, a lack of balance and an increased risk of falling, which can cause serious injury in seniors whose bones are more prone to break. And, after a fall, there is a longer period to heal.
People with dementia are four to five times more likely to fall than older people who do not have cognitive impairment, and they are three times more likely to sustain a fracture. Also, those who fall are five times more likely to be hospitalized or live in a long-term care setting than older adults with dementia who do not fall.
When an individual with dementia is having mobility problems, assist him or her so they can move as easily and comfortably as possible. Walking aids might be used to accomplish these goals as well as provide protection and safety. However, some health care professionals worry about use of a cane or walker by someone with dementia, as research shows they are three times more likely to suffer a fall when using a mobility aid versus not using one at all.
Learning to use a cane or a walker is a complex, cognitive task, and the affected person might consider it as one more obstacle in his or her life to maneuver. The person may not have the cognitive skill to adequately use the aid, and the use of it could cause frustration and agitation.
Cognitive assessments should be performed with the person to assure that he or she can understand how to use a cane or walker, and, once prescribed, a health care professional or caregiver should continually assist the person in using the device safely and accurately.