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Alzheimer's Disease

Dementia and Physical Handicap

10/11/2000

Question:

Hi. My mother has 2 types of dementia. Wernicke-Korsakoff, from long term drinking, and Vascular. She has had cartoid surgery, and one artery is completely blocked. She is also post-polio, and is having some problems with that,she still walks slowing with a walker. Polio is a muscle disease,and her legs and back are definately affected. My questions are: 1.does the polio cause a change in the progression of the dementia? 2. Will she forget that she can`t walk without help and attempt to.(she was 15 yrs. old when she got polio.)3. She seems to be having tia`s and its quite noticeable only in her mental status and not physical.(She has very little physcial activity.) I am aware that the time frame is usually 6-8 years from onset,she has had this for 5 years and the only thing wrong is her memory.(in regards to dementia). 4. Is her lack of physical movement why it seems to just be her memory affected? I know that I have asked a lot of questions but nowhere have I found informatin on a person with a physical handicap and dementia. Thank you.

Answer:

Hello and thank you for submitting a question to us! We hope you find the following information provided by Dr. Geldmacher helpful and useful! 1. Does the polio cause a change in the progression of the dementia? No. Polio affects only the motor neurons, and they do not have a role in thinking. However, vascular dementia is commonly associated with progressively worsening walking and balance. 2. Will she forget that she can`t walk without help and attempt to? If it is true Wernicke-Korsakoff (W-K) syndrome, the answer should be no. But, many people also have a progressive dementia along with W-K, and they will lose the capacity for judgment. It will would be more likely that she would lose the judgment that she can`t walk safely, rather than forget that she physically can`t walk. 3. She seems to be having tia`s and its quite noticeable only in her mental status and not physical.(She has very little physcial activity.) I am aware that the time frame is usually 6-8 years from onset, she has had this for 5 years and the only thing wrong is her memory.(in regards to dementia). The time frame of Alzheimer`s is 8 years or so. There are no similar rules of thumb for either W-K or vascular dementia. Fluctuations in thinking are rarely true TIA`s, and more likely represent the process of another illness - for instance variations in blood sugar, seizures, or even the fluctuations in ability associated with the degenerative dementia known as Dementia with Lewy Bodies. 4. Is her lack of physical movement why it seems to just be her memory affected? Without examining her, this question can`t be answered. Ask her doctors and nurses. Again, thank you very much for you questions. If we can be of any further assistance to you, please don`t hesitate to contact us again.

Related Resources:

Memory and Cognition Center
National Alzheimer's Association

For more information:

Go to the Alzheimer's Disease health topic, where you can:

Response by:

Paula K Ogrocki, PhD Paula K Ogrocki, PhD
Assistant Professor of Neurology
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University

David   Geldmacher, MD David Geldmacher, MD
Formerly, Assistant Professor of Neurology
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University