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Alzheimer's Disease

High Energy

04/04/2008

Question:

My 84 year-old mother has beginning stages of dementia. Daily, she gets very high energy, cleaning, takes out her sewing kit, rearranging again and again, the same items on a daily basis. My question: Is this normal for dementia patients? She has Parkinson`s Disease, high blood pressure, COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease), and lately passes out for about 45 minutes to an hour, like in a deep sleep.

Answer:

It is very normal for individuals with dementia to engage in repetitive and seemingly "purposeless" behaviors such as rearranging items or cleaning over and over again. It is important to remember that for the individual with dementia, they may not remember that they already did this, and in their minds, they may have a very good reason or purpose for carrying out the behavior. Your mother's bursts of energy and rearranging her sewing kit and cleaning is very normal for someone with dementia and can actually be framed as something positive as she is active and engaged in doing something.

You indicated in your question that your mother has Parkinson's disease. People with Parkinson's disease often are very apathetic, with no motivation or initiation of any tasks, seeming content to sit in a chair all day doing nothing. Extreme fatigue also is typical with Parkinson's disease. So, the fact that your mother does have these bursts of energy and activity again does seem like a positive thing as we would expect the opposite with Parkinson's disease. Her tendency to lapse into a deep sleep may be part of the fatigue that accompanies Parkinson's disease or just a way for her to rest and recover from the burst of energy she has at other times. Likewise, she may have a tendency to become more easily fatigued after activity because of her COPD or lung disease.

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Response by:

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