How Alzheimer’s Affects Body Functions

  • Alzheimer’s affects not only the brain but also the rest of the body.
  • Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease.
  • There are several ways to help improve the quality of life of people with Alzheimer’s disease concerning their physical ability. 

Alzheimer’s is a brain disease that causes problems with memory, thinking, communication, and behavior. However, many people don’t realize how it can affect the body’s physical ability and functioning.

Early Stages

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In the early days of Alzheimer’s, there is very little physical change that occurs as only the memory is primarily affected. 

A person who has dementia may walk for more than a mile at a time but still appear to function normally. Symptoms of the disease will not manifest in the physical abilities of the person. 

Middle Stages

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As the middle stage of Alzheimer’s disease creeps in, the muscle ability begins to decline. Damage in the brain cells that signals the muscles to control movement makes walking difficult. As a result, the person takes shorter steps, walk slowly or sideways, and drag their feet. Feeding oneself and controlling the bladder and bowel movement also become more challenging. In general, the mental ability to interpret the body’s signals declines. 

Late Stages

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In the late stages of the disease, bodily behaviors are severely affected, compromising everyday activities, including walking, eating, and toileting. Most people in this stage lose the intuitive abilities to chew and swallow and will require someone to feed them. The muscles can become tight, contracted, and difficult to straighten out due to lack of use, and the individual may need to be moved by a caregiver to remain comfortable and avoid pressure injuries.

How Caregivers Can Help

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While there isn’t a cure for Alzheimer’s yet, there are many things that family and caregivers can do to improve the quality of life for a person with dementia when it comes to their physical abilities.

  • Exercise: Encourage the person to engage in physical activities like walking, stretching their limbs, or anything that involves light exercise and getting fresh air. Motivate them to be as independent as possible with daily living activities. 
  • Therapy: If you begin noticing difficulty in their ability to walk or get dressed, or tripping and falling become frequent, contact a physical or occupational therapist to help build up strength, reinforce self-care, and improve balance. The therapist can also visit the home to help identify safety hazards.
  • Passive Range of Motion: A gentle range of motion exercises that involves moving the arms, wrists, hands, legs, and feet may help your loved one who is in the later stages of the disease to avoid getting painful spasms. 
  •  Good Nutrition: Healthy eating can help in maintaining physical function. Sometimes, difficulties in chewing and swallowing can cause nutritional challenges, so make sure that they’re eating well. 
  • Skin Care: Due to physical limitations in the later stages, skin breakdown can occur. Keep them moisturized to prevent skin issues. 

Source: Very Well Health


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