Can a cold cause weakness in an Alzheimer's patient?

2 answers | Last updated: Oct 15, 2016
Louiseb asked...

My husband has early to mid stage Alzheimer's Disease (AD). Three months ago he had a bad cold and has been extremely weak since. Could this be the AD or something else? Three months is a long time to be weak from a cold. Could it be that the AD weakness just started after the cold? He had been walking about 1 mile per day. Now he can barely make 1/4 mile.

Expert Answers

Joanne Koenig Coste is a nationally recognized expert on Alzheimer's care and an outspoken advocate for patient and family care. She is the author of Learning to Speak Alzheimer's. Also, she currently is in private practice as an Alzheimer's family therapist. Ms. Koenig Coste also serves as President of Alzheimer Consulting Associates, implementing state-of-the-art Alzheimer care throughout the United States.

Wow! That is indeed a long time to be in a weakened condition from a head cold. I would definitely suggest you check with your MD to see if something else might be going on medically. The difficulty lies in the patient's inability to articulate any symptoms he may be experiencing.There may have been a co-existing physical problem occurring at the same time as when the cold signs first manifest and this other entity may have been masked by the cold. A trip to your PCP could be worthwhile.

With many people in the mid stage of AD, a medical or physical occurrence does appear to hasten other symptoms such as less stamina which seems to be what you are reporting. The AD person's cognitive and physical body seem to not bounce back as quickly as in the pre-morbid state. I think it is well worth the time to have your physician evaluate your husband to rule out other causes for this change; if nothing is found, then you can more readily accept that it may be the disease itself that is speeding up the progression.

Above all else, do take care of YOU!

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Community Answers

Frena answered...

as a caregiver, i'd absolutely agree with joanne. what your husband is experiencing is not normal for normal, nor normal for Alzheimer's. so a visit to the doctor is definitely needed, with a real check-up included.

people with AD don't manifest normal symptoms. e.g. with a UTI, they might suddenly seem to be violent and aggressive (which i guess is their way of saying, hey, it really hurts when i pee). neither do they have the capacity to describe or interpret what they feel. neither do they show symptoms of usual conditions in a usual way.

so, the doctor might well be able to find a cause for the changed physical ability (maybe infection somewhere in the body? maybe drop in oxygen for cold-related complications? maybe a tiny stroke?).

so go, ask for definite tests to be done (oxygen, blood tests for infection, even cancer, thyroid -- until a reason is found). because, altho i'm not a doctor, i'd venture to say something real is going on which i'm sure could be found in test evidence. also consider brain pressure test for Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus which is not uncommon in unwell AD adults and may affect energy and physical levels, from what i've seen.

although people's memory and reasoning capacity is affected by AD, their walking and energy level is not. that is virtually always other stuff. and i bet it's pretty fixable, unlike the AD.

good luck!