Can sudden onset tremors and stumbling a sign of worsening Alzheimer's?

7 answers | Last updated: Aug 15, 2017
A fellow caregiver asked...

My husband was diagnosed with AD about four years ago, he has all of a sudden gotten worse, he started having spells of real bad tremors, and when this happens his nose starts running very badly. He has also gotten so bad in walking, he is like a drunk man trying to walk, he almost falls down, and when he sits in a chair, he goes over like he is going to fall off. Is this a sign of Alzheimer's, I have never found anything about this in all my reasearch of Alzheimer's. He is just going down so fast, and losing a lot of weight also. Is all this part of Alzheimer's? Thank you.

Expert Answers

Ladislav Volicer, M.D., Ph.D., is recognized as an international expert on advanced dementia care. He is a courtesy full professor at the School of Aging Studies, University of South Florida, Tampa, and visiting professor at the Third Medical Faculty, Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic. Twenty-five years ago, he established one of the first dementia special care units.

Your husband might have a Dementia with Lewy bodies that is often found together with Alzheimer's disease. This dementia has symptoms similar to Parkinson's disease and may cause falls. You might want to talk to your physician about treatment with Sinemet that is used in Parkinson's disease. Tremors may increase caloric needs and you need to try to give your husband high-caloric foods, e.g., ice cream.

Community Answers

Jpreaves answered...

I am wondering what the age of your husband is. My wife seems to have trouble walking with an unsure pace as if she is having trouble seeing. She seems to be unsure of herself and like she might fall.

She also has a trembling of her hands up near her chest almost like in a praying position, cupped and close together. she will begin to sob and maybe even cry a little....she seems to be afraid of something she doesn't want to happen. She will do this everytime her Sister comes over to visit her. They were never close. By the way, she is 61 years old....too old to be worrying about falling I would think.

My wife has almost no cognitive abilities left....I must help her do almost everything. Lately I feel like I should feed her but still want her to function somewhat by herself.

She is tethered to me like a scared dog. . . she never was like that. I guess I am her security blanket.

I know something about Parkinson's because I lost my Sister who suffered with the disease for 15 years. There was good and bad medication the doctor's would give he. The bad would cause hallucinations but relieve her of her tremors....most all meds have some side effects. If a person can't take the side effect, he shoud quit the have to weigh the pros and cons.

I look for signs of decline all the time. I am afraid she is going much faster as she goes in her sixth year. It scares me.

I struggle with what I know what I must do.......put her in a Nursing Home. J.P.

Frena answered...

increasing numbers of elders are being found to have Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus (NPH -- you can Google it)) which is build-up of fluid pressure in the brain and which causes stumbling and walking issues, and other problems like sudden increase of dementia, dizziness and so on. some experts think that as many as 25 percent of all elders said to have alzheimer's may in fact have NPH. ask your doctor to refer you to an expert who can test for this and, if brain pressure is up, it can be lowered by insertion of a shunt. although this may sound scary, i have two friends now (in just a small town) who had this problem, had the shunt done and now do not have any of those walking issues and both also experienced much improved memory and one is completely her old self again. it is fixable, which is why it's worth getting that diagnosis done. it's also covered by medicare and sometimes still medical doctors comletely overlook this or say, "It's a complication of Alzheimer's." Well, i'm not a doctor but i've worked for 20 years with people with alzheimer's and other dementias (and had 5 caregivign books published) and i can tell you that sudden changes in walking, balance and movement are NOT normal to alzheimer's. they are a sure sign that EXPERT medical investigation is needed. please do it, you'll be glad you did! many blessings to all caregivers.

Jennyb answered...

It is my understanding that the parkinsonism symptoms would show up within 1 - 2 years of the dementia symptoms if the patient has Lewy body dementia. Since it's been 4 years since the diagnosis, Lewy body seems unlikely (thank heaven).

Frena makes a good point -- sudden onset of these symptoms (and/or sudden urinary incontinence) may mean the development of NPH, which is readily diagnosed with an MRI or CT scan.

Another thing to consider is the meds that this lady's husband is taking. Some meds (e.g., antipsychotics) can cause parkinsonism -- and it often can be reversed by stopping the med. My favorite website for looking up the side effects of drugs is Be sure to talk with his doctor before stopping any med -- it may be necessary to wean him slowly off any suspect drug.

Also, the infamous urinary tract infection (UTI) can cause all sorts of bizarre behaviors. Any abrupt change in behavior calls for UTI screening.

Dnv answered...

My Mother was diagnosed with Lewey bodies after she began falling, sleeping almost constantly and developed the "rigid" features of a Parkinson's patient as well as the tremors. She was not able to function even close to normal for the last two -two 1/2 years she was alive. She was not unhappy and in no pain, just could not move. She recognized family members until about two weeks before she passed. She was 81 My Father is in the last stages of Alzheimers and it is absolutely heartbreaking. I would almost rather he had Lewey bodies than Alzheimer's as at least he would maybe still be able to communicate with us. My thoughts and prayers are with you as you deal with these horrid, sad diseases

Frena answered...

but, DNV, you CAN communicate with him. i promise you that a) he can hear you; b) he can feel and c) if you both speak and touch him tenderly, this will indeed reach and feed his heart. he isn't doing nothing in there and he isn't empty.many brain studies carried out on people with advanced alzheimer's show that their brain remains very active in the dreaming and feeling areas. you can reach out to him in comofrt and kindness and it will make all the difference, to him and i suspect to yourself. no one is beyond all reach while they live and breathe. don't listen to anyone who tells you otherwise (because they don't know). so, dont despair, instead try the many different ways to make that meaningful kindness touch his heart. it will not be time wasted. and i know because i've done it with people and they do know.

A fellow caregiver answered...

I am going through the Dementia/Alzheimer thing with both parents and it is so sad to see these two people slowly but now quickly falling to pieces. The UTI definitely can bring on very bizarre behavior and a seemingly rapid increase in the dementia and once the UTI is gone the behavior becomes normal again but not always all the way back. Infections appear to take a big toll if the continue to return. My stepmom is 14 years younger than my dad, she is 75 and over the course of the past 2 years she can hardly pronounce words anymore and some days she walks with great difficulty. She has never been a violent person but has suddenly become destructive, breaks, dishes glasses just anything she can get her hands on and she doesn't mind fighting. And doesn't remember anything she has done. Dad is 89 and remembers most people and things. Memory tripping usually happens with infection or if he takes certain over the counter meds for colds such as ALKASELTZER PLUS. DR.'S WARNED MY DAD THAT SOMETHING IN THESE MEDICINES CAN CAUSE HALLUCINATIONS IN PEOPLE OVER 60. PROBLEM IS HE FORGETS AND TAKES IT ANYWAY AND ENDS UP ON A SEVERE HALLUCINATION TRIP FOR DAYS. He also began stumbling and falling a few years back and when sitting in a chair leans severely to his left side which is the side he constantly complains of pain sincerely his bought with the shingles recently. I am wondering if this fluid on the brain that builds up in the elderly may be an issue for him causing some of his difficulties because just 2 1/2 months ago he was walking and driving, getting around very well now he will not walk seems to be afraid if falling.