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Posted November 18, 2017

GAIT CHANGES vs BRAIN CHANGES

If an older adult walks more slowly, take smaller steps, or look insecure as they approach a step or stairway, it should raise a red flag to seek medical attention. The manner in which we walk is called gait.
Researchers have discovered an association between slower and unstable gait in older adults and a higher risk of cognitive decline. Before an older adult shows symptoms of cognitive impairment, he or she may exhibit gait problems.

WALKING REQUIRES EXECUTIVE FUNCTION

The part of the brain affected in older adults is executive function, which is responsible for planning ahead. In order to walk correctly, you require the perfect integration of many areas between your brain and body and planning your next movement. As the executive function decreases it will decrease our ability to walk correctly.

COGNITIVE GAIT CONNECTION

Sometimes we have a hard time doing two tasks at the same time. For the elderly, remembering where they put that mobile phone while walking may predispose them to a fall. Distracted to find that phone, the brain loses its focus to process the movement of the muscles. Our brain is continuously working in overdrive trying to remember and that overcompensation will cause us to slow down, interrupt our gait and stability.
Research has recommended elderly playing with young children to improve motor cognition results with simple activities that include walking and another task such as beating a drum.

ALTERED SENSORY RELATED TO OTHER CONDITION

Don’t forget that Diabetes in the elderly can also impair sensation in the feet thereby further complicating gait patterns. The damage to the nerve endings associated with the presence of high blood sugars can reduce the elders ability to feel that step. Changes in gait may not always be related to cognitive impairment, other factors can also play a role.

GAIT ASSESSMENT

If an older patient already has experienced cognitive decline, physicians should perform a gait assessment. Common assessment tool include the Timed Up and Go test TUG. If a patient’s balance or walking is unstable, family members need to seek medical care to ensure that it’s safe for the patient to move around the home or determine the need for an aid such as a walker or cane. Introducing a walking aid without advice and teaching may cause misuse and further risk for fall.

HOME NURSING AND PHYSIOTHERAPY

Home physiotherapy is recommended for elders in their home environment to improve muscle strength, balance and coordination and build confidence in functioning within their environment.

Enayati Home Healthcare Center is recognized by Accreditation Canada International for providing safe home nursing and physiotherapy care. Enayati home care teams use the TUG, timed up and go assessment. Our teams are trained in Elderly Care, Parkinson’s disease, Dementia, Alzheimer Stroke/CVA . For more information contact nursing@enayati.org

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