How do I deal with a mother who has weakness spells after going to the bathroom? - AgingCare.com

How do I deal with a mother who has weakness spells after going to the bathroom?

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I know this isn't a medical forum, but I wonder if anyone can give me any insight into the following situation: About 5 minutes after my 91-year-old mother goes to the bathroom (on an elevated toilet seat), she has a "spell" in which she can't move. We are usually walking back to her recliner or bed, and she just stops and can't move anymore. She never passes out; she just says she can't move her legs anymore. At that time, we have to get her into a chair or she would fall. We have to remove her hands from the walker after she sits down.(she's gripping it so tightly). The "spell" lasts about 5 minutes. Is it possible that this has something to do with straining on the toilet? She has a history of TIAs (mini-strokes) but there doesn't seem to be any weakness on one side or anything like that. She has dementia, but she is typically very responsive to her environment. In these spells, she just sort of "zones out," can't move, and has to sit down. Any ideas? Thank you for any insights!

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Thank you both for these insights.

Kimbee, I thought it had to do with her legs and ciruclation, too, so I started having mother do some walking in place (while still seated) and even have her elevate and straighten/press each leg against my thigh so she will have the sensation of putting weight on her legs. That seems to help when she is getting out of her recliner, but it doesn't seem to make much difference after a bathroom break. These spells are more about cognition than physical strength, I suspect. The episode doesn't happen immediately upon standing; it tends to be a couple of minutes later. I read elsewhere that it is helpful to put our mothers' feet on a little stepstool or something (after they're seated on the toilet) so their feet are a little elevated (apparently it helps with bowel movements, but that's another issue.) :o)

Jeanne, it is really helpful to know that these spells are not that unusual with dementia patients. The first few times it happened, I panicked. I thought she was having a major event. Mother has never been diagnosed with a particular type of dementia, but I suspect it would be considered vascular dementia (small blockages in her brain?). She was doing very well living independently with only minimal assistance in the morning until a month ago when something changed one afternoon. The CT scan didn't reveal a stroke, but since then her speech is slurred and she has much more aphasia, she is weaker on the right side, and she now needs a gait belt & attendant in order to walk. Following a stint in a rehab hospital, she now has a wheelchair. Like you said, I want her to be as strong as possible to be able to help with transfers (and exercise actually seems to help her thinking/cognition). So far, I haven't noticed the "spells" after other exertion, but I'll be on the lookout for that. If they were just something we could anticipate, they would be much easier to manage, but that may be wishful thinking. . . .

I'm also ashamed to admit that the first couple of times these "spells" happened, I honestly thought she was just being stubborn/difficult. I thought I could make her keep walking by telling her she was about to fall, etc. I'm glad you explained that these episodes are most likely real. Mother's manifestations are identical to what you describe in her your husband (Jeanne) and your Mother (Kimbee).

I'm so thankful I found this forum! Thank you for your responses.
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My mom, 81, dementia, has this too. She has decreased circulation in legs, n weakness in thighs. I suspect she experiences ^ in both after sitting on elevated seat-her feet just barely touch the floor. Just a guess though....kimbee
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Does she ever have these spells at other times, perhaps after other kinds of exertion? This is happening with some frequency now to my husband. He'll be headed for his recliner or bed, doing fine with his walker, and suddenly he is too weak to continue. He also "zones out." I get him into a wheelchair for the remainder of the journey, even if it is just a few steps. And the death grip on the walker is very familiar! I want him to retain enough muscle tone and strength to continue to be able to transfer from bed to wheelchair, etc. so I want him to use the walker when he can. But when he is clearly weak to start with we just use the wheelchair. And if he has a "spell" I get the chair under his butt as soon as possible and coax him to let go of the walker and sit down.

I don't know what these spells are called, or anything techncial about them. (Maybe someone else here will enlighten us both.) My husband is in his 10th year of Lewy Body Dementia. These episodes are fairly recent for us. I know from other caregivers that this is not unusual in this disease. I do not know about other forms of dementia.

Do discuss these symptoms with the doctor who is treated your mother's dementia. And if you do not now own a wheelchair, I think you would find it worthwhile to have one on hand. I suggest a transport chair, unless your mother is a very large woman.

Good luck!
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