Monday "Memories" With My Mom

     As I mentioned at the end of last week's post about my mom, her walking has been a concern, especially the last few weeks.  Her steps are getting smaller and smaller and she is shuffling a lot.  One evening recently she started shuffling sideways instead of walking straightforward.  It is very disconcerting to watch.  It more than likely is another symptom of the brain's signals not working properly (those are not the medical terms).  Many times I do my own impromptu physical therapy and I literally have her practice walking.  I tell her to "take big long steps", "look forward, not at your feet", etc...she usually does better.  It is hard when you are walking into Target (even with handicap parking) and you need her to cross the road before the cars lose their patience.  All the while, I am saying "big long steps mom" trying to encourage her along the way. 
     Other times she kind of jumbles her feet or shuffles and I ask her why she is doing that she says "I don't know...".  This again means, she is really not able to control this herself.  Obviously, I want her to keep her mobility as LONG as possible as this is a big key to maintaining some kind of independence.  One night recently I had her go straight to bed a bit early because I was afraid she was going to fall.  Her mind and feet seemed particularly unable to work together.  In fact, when she does walk well, it often seems to require lots of concentration -- you can just tell she is trying really hard.  I wish it was more automatic, but it does not seem to be.  There are good days and bad days.
     As I have said before, I am constantly Googling things about this confusing disease to see what can be expected.  Changes in "gait" and walking with a shuffle are common as the disease progresses.  Walking itself is said to be good for preventing and slowing the progression of Alzheimer's Disease. 
Falls among people with Alzheimer's disease are common and lead to fractures, acute hospitalizations and increased rate of institutionalization. Poor balance and gait abnormalities, commonly associated with Alzheimer's, are risk factors for falls. Improving balance and gait abnormalities through exercise is critical to prevent falls. Walking is the most commonly recommended exercise program, however, it is difficult to engage people with Alzheimer's in long-term exercise programs due to lack of motivation, poor engagement and external factors, such as the cost of physical therapy.*
     After reading more about the walking issues, I learned that foot pain is sometimes the underlying cause of walking problems.  Unfortunately, my mom is not always able to communicate any pain she may be having.  I asked her if her feet were hurting and she said "no".  Later, I asked her and she said "yes".  Then I ask her which foot and she points to her "right".  Then you get to the doctor and she says "left".  You get the idea.  There's a lot of mind reading and guesswork going on.   I made her an appointment to see her foot doctor and he got her fixed up and gave her a shot to fix up the pain she appeared to be having.  Things have been improved (but not great) since then.

     It would be tough to do any long distance walking, but for now we are trying to make sure she gets some walking in, as slow as it may be.  Recently, my brother took her to the American Veterans Traveling Tribute memorial wall replica which was displayed near us.  That was a decent amount of walking for her.  It is hard to find the balance (pardon the pun) between not wanting her to fall and giving her the confidence and encouragement to continue to walk on her own.
     For now though, we're going to keep...on...walking!


Sarah said...

That's tough! Do you think she could remember to use a cane? Or a rolling walker?

Cindy said...

Thanks Nurse Sarah! The coordination with the cane was not good when we tried a few months ago. We do have a rolling walker but are afraid she will rely on it too heavily or forget to use it... Ugh!