What can cause a sudden gait change in parent with dementia?

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My then 86 yr old mother moved slowly with a cane but got around fairly well. About a year ago she ended up in the hospital for a 'funny feeling in her chest' which turned out to be a UTI and dehydration. A week later for her follow-up visit with the cardiologist, she needed her walker and was slower than a snail! I attributed it to her being in the hospital as mental capacities are affected, but it has not improved with time. I have since seen postings on this forum that mention mobility problems caused by different forms of dementia and wonder if such a sudden onset is common under those circumstances. Any other thoughts? Mini-stroke, perhaps? She has not had further medical emergencies.

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Everyone has given good answers here. Fluid on the brain, a mini-stroke, a different kind of dementia (there can be more than one present), another infection - unfortunately the list is endless. I hope that the doctor can get to the bottom of this. In the end, your first hunch about the damage from the UTI and treatment may be the answer. Everything takes a toll on a frail elder, so often even after they are treated for an ailment they never fully recover.

Please keep us posted,
I would go to a drugstore and buy a fingertip pulse oximeter. Log in the readings and if her O2 is fine when resting but drops after walking, discuss that with her MD. We also have a wrist blood pressure monitor, and share the readings with her primary and cardiologist.
Not that anyone should diagnose anything in a forum, but my dad with dementia suddenly started walking very slow, and one leg was definitely not as mobile. He also had more trouble getting out of chairs, then nearly fell from weakness. The hospital initially did not think it was stroke because he had no classic symptoms. After scanning his brain they discovered many mini strokes had occurred.
My mom experienced a gait change and it was due to hydrocephalus of the brain. A MRI of the brain confirmed the diagnosis. As it was explained to me, as we age, our brain shrinks and the area surrounding it is replaced with fluid. If it's not too severe, a shunt can be implanted to remove the water, but in my mom's case she was too far advanced. I was also told that smoking, and she did up until she went into a nursing home, helps advance the shrinking of the brain.
My MIL did not have dementia but she experienced a noticeable gait change that was due to fluid on the brain. Her primary care doctor thought it was just arthritis and aging. She had to go to a specialty clinic to get the diagnosis and treatment.
Don't forget, "fine" for O2 in the elderly is anything above 90. If it stays at 88 or below it should be cause for a hospital trip.
This "slowness" is not sudden. Dementia has a progressive decline in motor skills for these patients, and it will get worse because the brain is not sending the correct signals to the muscles in order to work properly. My best to your mother.
Medications can change one's gate, or how they walk. A person looses strength as they become less active & stress & weight bearing will just help & is needed to keep bones strong...Anything is possible....have an MRI done if you wish....have a dex scan done to see the bone density....speaking from my experience as a home health R.N., Nurse manager. Also from my personal experience with caring for a husband with Dementia & having my scans done regularly. These are non invasive test/scans. I refuse to let them use dye on me-I am highly allergic & get all the disk of the scans sent to me, which I can read, so the dye matters not with what your wanting to find out.
Just a year ago mom was able to go for a walk of a bit more than half a mile. That was before the first of seven successive UTI's. Since the first infection she has not been the same. Infection of any sort is very hard for them to come back from. She struggles with her walk, her gait and speed of it has deteriorated over the last year, as the disease progresses.
My mom has fallen so many times. Now she doesn't go out. But she falls in the house. She has CHF and early dementia. Docs just don't know. She is very weak.

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