Can tremors be treated or minimized?

1 answer | Last updated: Sep 20, 2016
Maria elena asked...

My 87 year old father has Alzheimer, his tremors are so bad he has difficulty eating. The tremors make him drop his food. His doctor says it is NOT Parkinson. So, is there any way to control his tremors?

Expert Answers

Kathryn Pears, who has a master's in public policy and management, has been involved in dementia care for 30 years. She was a caregiver for her father, who had early onset Alzheimer's disease, and cared for him at home until his death in 1991. She was director of Public Policy and Education for the Alzheimer's Association, Maine chapter, until June 2011, when she left to create Dementia Care Strategies, where she provides consulting and training services to family and professional caregivers about all aspects of caring for someone with Alzheimer's disease or a related dementia. In addition, she has led multiple legislative initiatives in Maine to improve care for individuals living with dementia, including passage of a Silver Alert program to track missing people with dementia as well as special care unit disclosure.

Maria: You ask if tremors can be treated or minimized. Not being able to eat without dropping his food must be very frustrating and discouraging for your father. Tremors are involuntary muscle movements and the hands are the most commonly affected. What you describe are most commonly referred to as "action" tremors and occur when a person is performing a voluntary action, such as gripping a piece of silverware to eat. There are a couple of reasons for why he may experiencing these tremors.

Some medications can cause tremors as a side-effect. Your pharmacist can review any medications your father is taking to see if this might be the cause. It might be possible to stop the drug, reduce the dosage, or switch to another drug.

Alcohol or tobacco withdrawal can also cause tremors as can excessive caffeine intake.

Since the tremors are interfering with his daily activities you might want to consider consulting a neurologist to see if s/he could help treat or control the tremors your father is having. Individuals with Lewy Body Dementia (LBD) can also experience the kind of shaking or tremors that are characteristic of Parkinson's disease, so a neurological consultation could be helpful. Lewy Bodies are small, round protein lumps that accumulate in the outer layer of the brain (the cerebral cortex) and deep inside the midbrain and brainstem and can cause tremors, muscle stiffness and movement disorders. They are often found in those diagnosed with Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, Down syndrome and other disorders.

Although tremors cannot usually be cured there is something you can do to make eating easier. Weighted dining utensils could help with his eating difficulties. They look like regular silverware and can cut down on the problems associated with tremors. The added weight helps stabilize the hands and makes eating easier. There are a number of online sources for weighted utensils. One online source is The Elder Store ( Your local medical supply company will also likely carry them.

If he has trouble holding a glass he could try using a straw to sip from the glass instead of trying to hold it up to his mouth.

I hope these suggestions will help your father. Best of luck to both. of you.