Mar 11, 2012

Dotty Walks on Water

Dotty can't walk because her brain can no longer tell her legs what to do.

By Bob DeMarco
Alzheimer's Reading Room

Yesterday, I decided to take Dotty to the pool, and to get her into the water.

One of motivations here is to determine if I can somehow get Dotty walking. Well, walking a bit. Like walking on her own in the house.

Right now, Dotty can't walk more than a few steps without assistance. And, she can no longer get around in our house on her own.

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Let me take a short cut here.

Dotty can't walk because her brain can no longer tell her legs what to do. Her legs are not yet weak, and she isn't falling.

I have been discussing this phenomena for years with people in the Alzheimer's community. Dotty's walking problem is not related to weakness in her legs, hips, or knees. It is not related to balance, although, Dotty does say all the time, she is going to faint. For a while now she has been saying, I can't move, and her feet are stuck to the ground.

I have been waiting patiently for a day when it was warm enough to put Dotty into the pool, and a day where I could get her on the move before it was too late.

So, yesterday we took off for the pool around 11:30 AM. I admit, I had some feelings of trepidation because I was not sure if Dotty would be able to get into the pool.

Oh that Dotty, never one to disappointed. I rolled her up to the pool and she made it in.

It is not so easy for one simple reason. The pool has this giant edge around it. So, you actually have to step up, then over, and then down to the first step in the pool. Then down a few steps.

Dotty girl makes it over that first giant hump without too much of a problem. Going down the steps was a bigger problem. First, Dotty's brain is not helping her much to pick up her feet. Second, to Dotty it looks like it is a million miles down to the next step. She has no real depth perception when it comes to looking into the water. So she steps down with the greatest of trepidation.

Of course, I am assisting, not coaching her all the way in. You just lather on a lot of positive reinforcement like, "you can do it", "don't worry I have a good grip on your", "don't worry even if you fall all you are going to do is fall in the water and I won't let you drown".

I don't actually say that last one, I just wanted to see if you were paying attention.

Once we made it into the water, Dotty was able to walk. After a few trips across the pool, I let her go on her own. She help the rope and walked across.

So Dotty can still walk a bit. We will keep this up if we can, and maybe, maybe, we will give the treadmill a shot somewhere down the road.

By the way, just so you understand, it is not about me wanting or needing Dotty to walk. It is about finding out if I can improve Dotty's ability a bit so she can go snip out her own mound bar without me having to bring it to her. Stuff like that.

No, Dotty didn't walk on water. But, she did walk in the water. She seemed to be enjoying herself. Made me feel pretty good that is for sure.

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Bob DeMarco is the Founder of the Alzheimer's Reading Room and an Alzheimer's caregiver. The blog contains more than 4,600 articles with more than 349,100 links on the Internet. Bob lives in Delray Beach, FL.

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