Is it common for people with Alzheimer's to be able to do one task but not the reverse of it?

1 answer | Last updated: Sep 14, 2017
Bd4 asked...

Is it common for people with Alzhiemer's to be unable to manuver items such as clothing to get them on? What about being able to lock the door or turn on the water on but not be able to reverse it & unlock the door or turn the water off?

Expert Answers

Beth Spencer is a social worker in Ann Arbor, Michigan, with more than 25 years of experience with families who have a member with dementia. She is coauthor of Understanding Difficult Behaviors and Moving a Relative with Memory Loss: A Family Caregiver's Guide. Previously, she directed Silver Club, early-stage and adult day programs serving individuals with Alzheimer's disease and related illnesses.

There can be many things going on here. The person may not be able to understand the function of an item anymore -- so she looks at an object, but can no longer readily identify it. If she doesn't recognize a faucet or an article of clothing, she may not be able to figure out what to do with it. Another possibility is that a person may turn water on or unlock a door by accident when she is simply touching things and fooling around with them. When this happens, it's unlikely she will figure out how to reverse the action. This doesn't always happen in people with Alzheimer’s, but it's not uncommon; it depends on what areas of the brain are damaged.  

There can also be physical problems that are interfering with functioning, such as arthritis, stiffness, or lack of fine motor skills that are making it physically difficult to manipulate objects.