Decreased Activity and Alzheimer’s Disease

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Decreased activity is when you move around or talk slowly or feel weak or tired all the time. Many people who have Alzheimer’s disease have issues with this.

People with dementia can be less active for many reasons. If your loved one doesn’t seem to feel well, call their doctor and ask for advice. Signs of illness to look for include:

You also might check their vital signs (things like their temperature, blood pressure, or pulse rate). If any are outside the normal range or are very different from their usual numbers, call their doctor.

People who have Alzheimer’s disease can also be depressed, and that can lead to decreased activity. Keep an eye out for signs of depression, like sleeping more or less than usual, eating more or less than usual, and having little interest in normal activities.

Other possible causes include:

  • Problems with walking or moving around or not seeing or hearing well
  • Being in pain or worrying about pain
  • A chronic condition, such as congestive heart failure, a new infection, or dehydration
  • Trouble starting activities on their own. Sometimes, people with Alzheimer’s disease don’t do anything unless they’re given something to do. On the other hand, too much activity can make them feel overwhelmed and be less active.
  • Certain medications, including ones for sleep problems, pain, anxiety, and antipsychotic conditions

Things You Can Try

If your loved one is bored or doesn’t have much contact with other people, schedule some activities based on their interests and things they’ve done in the past. Try different ones until you find something they enjoy. For example, you might go for a walk, sing with them, listen to their favorite music, or look at old photo albums or catalogs.

If they’re tired or get overwhelmed by lots of activity:

  • Don’t rush them.
  • Stay away from busy, crowded, and unfamiliar places.
  • Don’t do things that last a long time or involve lots of people. And give them time to rest afterward.

Continued

If they have trouble getting around or are worried about falling:

  • Make it easier and safer for them to move around. For example, make sure your home has good lighting, put in railings, and get rid of clutter in areas where they walk.
  • Talk with a doctor or therapist about ways to help them move around safely. For example, you should lift them from their armpits, not their arms.
  • Talk with their doctor about physical therapy or occupational therapy.

If they seem to be in pain:

  • For temporary pain relief, use acetaminophen or another pain medication that a doctor has approved. Follow the instructions on the label. If you use acetaminophen, don’t give them more than 3,000 milligrams per day. If they have liver disease, ask their doctor first.
  • Tell their doctor if the pain is severe or doesn’t go away.

Health Problems Decreased Activity Can Cause

If your loved one sits or lies in one position too long, they're more likely to get constipated or have skin sores called pressure ulcers. Common places for skin sores include:

  • From lying down without changing position regularly: under the shoulders, pelvis, hip bones, tailbone and heels.
  • From sitting without changing position regularly: on the skin over the hip bones or buttocks and sometimes on the elbows.

Skin sores can show up in just a few hours. You can help prevent them by getting your loved one to move around regularly and avoid sitting or lying on a hard surface, and by checking their skin for bruises or redness.

Call their doctor if you notice redness or sores in pressure areas (where bones press against the bed or chair), such as the heels, pelvis, or shoulders.

WebMD Medical Reference in Collaboration with the Cecil G. Sheps Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on August 26, 2018

Sources

SOURCES:

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Colling, K.B. (2000) A taxonomy of passive behaviors in people with Alzheimer’s disease. Journal of Nursing Scholarship, 32(3), 239–244.

Colling, K.B. (2004). Caregiver interventions for passive behaviors in dementia: Links to the NDB model. Aging & Mental Health, 8(2), 117–125.

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Mace, N. & Rabins, P. (1981). 36 Hour Day: A Family Guide to Caring for People Who Have Alzheimer’s Disease, Related Dementias, and Memory Loss. Baltimore, MD: John’s Hopkins University Press.

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