Should we take my Dad to a neurologist for Alzheimer's dizziness?

Tochter asked...

Should we take my Dad to a neurologist for Alzheimer's dizziness? My father has Alzheimer's and is still functioning pretty well. However, just recently he got very dizzy and almost fell into the TV set. Then he began running through the house and he said it wasn't his legs, that he felt as if someone was pushing him from behind. I've not read about this type of symptom in my information.

Should he be referred to a neurologist at this point for Alzheimer's dizziness, as he seems to be slowly getting worse? He is currently taking the Exelon patch.

Expert Answer

Maria Basso Lipani writes a popular website on geriatric care topics, where she puts her expertise as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker to good use answering care planning questions. Maria is a graduate of Columbia University School of Social Work and is licensed in California and New York.

A visit to the doctor to discuss new behaviors never hurts. In this case it seems like a good idea particularly if the dizziness is a new symptom for him. However, I want to address his reaction to the near fall. 

If your father believes that someone was pushing him from behind then he may be confabulating. That is, his brain may be trying to figure out a way to make sense of the reality (i.e. the dizziness or weakness he was feeling).

Confabulation is common in people with Alzheimer’s. Often times when a person with this disease has particularly strong emotions around a certain circumstance (in your father’s case perhaps it’s a strong fear of becoming weaker or needing more help) he or she will create a story to explain what is happening so that their egos are protected. In other words: I’m not getting weaker or declining in any way, it was someone behind me. Someone was causing this to happen to me.

If this is confabulation, it’s important to know that it is 100% real to your father; he has no idea that he is making something up. The best thing for you to do is to go along with it by doing what you can to respond to the emotional piece. If he mentions someone pushing him again you might try saying something like, “I didn’t see anyone push you but I certainly wouldn’t want anyone to do that. I’ll try to watch where I’m going and make sure others do the same.”