Dementia symptoms include red flag sign when walking up and down stairs

Dementia is a devastating diagnosis for both the affected person and their loved ones. It is a syndrome, or a group of symptoms, related to the ongoing decline of the brain.

For this reason it can cause problems with memory as well as behavioural changes. It can also affect a person’s ability to think, speak and carry out daily activities.

Perhaps less known is the physical impact it can have as in some cases it can affect a person’s movement.

Dementia charity Alzheimer Scotland shared a specific movement-related symptom you might notice when someone is using the stairs. It explains: “People often assume that memory loss and dementia are one and the same, but there are other key symptoms and signs to look out for.

“Every person with dementia is different. How their illness affects them depends on which areas of their brain are most damaged.”

Therefore, a person with dementia may struggle to walk up and down the stairs.

They might have difficulty lifting their legs, and they might be more prone to slipping or falling.

“Dementia can cause problems with how we move about in our surrounding area,” the charity says.

“Things like slips, trips and falls might become more common.

“You might start to notice that a person is shuffling as opposed to lifting their legs when they are walking.”

If someone you know is experiencing difficulties with walking on the stairs as well as other symptoms of dementia you should arrange for them to see their GP.

How to keep stairs safe

If you are concerned about how someone is moving on the stairs there are ways to make them safer.

The Alzheimer’s Society says: “Falls on stairs and steps can cause injuries, so it is important to make them safe.

“If you rent your home you may need to speak to the landlord or letting agent about making any adjustments.”

It recommends the following:

  • If carpets or floor coverings are worn or damaged you should replace them
  • Try to make sure any bannisters are sturdy
  • Make sure you can clearly see the edges of each step by using paint or “nosing” (which is special stair edging)
  • Consider fitting easy-grip handrails on the walls on both sides of the stairs
  • Keep stairs free from clutter, and try not to carry too much when using them.

Strength and balance exercises can also help improve mobility.

The charity adds: “You can reduce your risk of falling by doing strength or balance exercises twice a week.

“These include sitting, standing and walking exercises. Your GP could also refer you to a physiotherapist.”

It is also worth checking the home for potential hazards such as rugs, loose or worn carpets, furniture or objects lying around, the charity says.

According to the NHS, other signs of dementia to look for include problems with:

  • Memory loss
  • Thinking speed
  • Mental sharpness and quickness
  • Language, such as using words incorrectly, or trouble speaking
  • Understanding
  • Judgement
  • Mood
  • Doing daily activities
  • Losing interest in their usual activities
  • Managing their behaviour or emotions
  • Finding social situations difficult and losing interest in relationships and socialising
  • Personality changes
  • Hallucinations.

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