Mental block going down stairs

Discussion in 'I have a partner with dementia' started by Prospector, Sep 19, 2015.

  1. Prospector

    Prospector Registered User

    Sep 30, 2014
    61
    Trowbridge, Wiltshire
    Please does anyone have experience of how to get an AD sufferer through a mental block over how to get down stairs?

    This morning my wife, who is physically quite capable, got herself down from the second floor bedroom to the first floor with no problem and then got stuck trying to use the second flight of stairs to reach the ground floor. Both stairs are very well lit and she has no major difficulty going up.

    She was trying to put her foot onto the next step down but kept pulling it back up again to the landing. I tried guiding and encouraging her but that didn't work. For the moment, she is still on the first floor and I'm hoping she'll eventually work out what to do.

    She has a (recurrent) UTI which is making things much worse than usual. We have spent over half an hour so far. It's so frustrating knowing that she can do it!


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  2. jaymor

    jaymor Volunteer Moderator

    Jul 14, 2006
    12,547
    Female
    England
    Can you distract her, do something on the 1st floor for a time and then suggest you go have a cup of tea or something that needs doing downstairs and then trying again without mentioning the earlier problem?

    Give it a little while just in case she is still anxious, dementia can take away the short time memory but it tends to leave the emotions in place which means your wife may have forgotten the stairs but is still anxious because her emotions tell her there was a problem. Am I making sense?

    Hope you are soon back together on the ground floor:)
     
  3. Gigglemore

    Gigglemore Registered User

    Oct 18, 2013
    526
    British Isles
    Have you tried getting her to try coming down backwards, with you below her securely holding the handrail in case there is a problem? Patient and calm reassurance is important.

    I think perception of stairs etc is quite a common problem but really hope this is a one-off due to the UTI.
     
  4. Tin

    Tin Registered User

    May 18, 2014
    4,815
    UK
    Infection medication can do some very strange things to a dementia sufferer. Is the 2nd staircase any different from 1st? carpet, handrail, anything that may have put her off. Or is it just that one staircase is enough.

    Hopefully she will be back to climbing two flights as soon as infection has cleared.
     
  5. Prospector

    Prospector Registered User

    Sep 30, 2014
    61
    Trowbridge, Wiltshire
    We got down to the ground floor about 20 mins. after I posted the topic. She was fine once she got beyond the first step. Good thing we don't have any appointments to keep today.

    Her AD started with posterior cortical atrophy, which has a big impact on visuospatial perception (hence new lighting to make the stairs brightly lit). It's the weirdness of her managing the first flight but then getting stuck after three level steps along the landing that is so perplexing.

    She is usually much better when not suffering UTI - she has had several in succession recently, the latest starting about a week ago. We should have results back from the Path. Lab. on Monday so that we can get a targeted antibiotic.



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  6. Prospector

    Prospector Registered User

    Sep 30, 2014
    61
    Trowbridge, Wiltshire
    Both staircases are identical in every way, one under the other, except that the upper one has a full two-storey ceiling whereas that on the lower one slopes at one storey height above the steps, due to the staircase above it. Same carpet, same paintwork, same banisters, same window, just a few different pictures.


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  7. LYN T

    LYN T Registered User

    Aug 30, 2012
    6,962
    Brixham Devon
    It could be the second ceiling being lower and sloping (I know what you mean as I have the same type) is affecting your wife as her spatial awareness has been affected. Does she sometimes duck when going through door entrances etc?

    Jaymor has given very good advice. Distraction could work.

    Difficult problem I know.

    Take care

    Lyn T
     
  8. Beate

    Beate Registered User

    May 21, 2014
    11,740
    Female
    London
    What colour is the stair carpet? Is it in any way patterned?
     
  9. LYN T

    LYN T Registered User

    Aug 30, 2012
    6,962
    Brixham Devon
    Very good question Beate.
     
  10. Prospector

    Prospector Registered User

    Sep 30, 2014
    61
    Trowbridge, Wiltshire
    It's a plain and light-coloured carpet, and the strong lighting defines the step edges clearly. Once my wife gets started, she's fine. It's as though she is trying to think too much about what she is doing.

    She is not very tall, so doesn't duck through doorways or stairwells. The lower stairway ceiling is a long way above her head and she is not looking up anyway. She is afraid of missing her footing and falling, even if I stand in front of her to catch her.


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  11. Padraig

    Padraig Registered User

    Dec 10, 2009
    1,039
    Hereford
    This happened with my wife, I mention it in my book. I was working in the kitchen preparing a meal and called for her to join me. When I looked up stairs she was frozen to the spot in fear. I rushed up to assist her down but to no avail. Finally I took her back to the bedroom and told her not worry, I'd be up later to sit with her. Less than twenty minuets later I turned about there she was stood behind me!

    To me it was another sign of the gradual loss of her spacial awareness. Over time I discovered it was the most dangerous aspect of Alzheimer's. It was the prelude falls, due to an inability to judge distances, heights and sizes of objects etc. At the top of the stairs it must have seemed like a long way to fall.

    As I chose to look after my wife on my own through out the illness I learned there was a pattern to her progress It was not like finding the pieces of a jigsaw together. Only wish I knew what was in store before it all began. Then again, in a strange way I'm so pleased I refused to go along with the 'experts' and followed my way. Sorry if this is of little help
     
  12. Prospector

    Prospector Registered User

    Sep 30, 2014
    61
    Trowbridge, Wiltshire
    Going down steps has been a challenge for my wife for several years now, mostly attributable to PCA and lighting / contrast, but there is obviously an issue of confidence or fear too. Going upstairs is never a problem.

    I'm fairly sure she will be better when we get her out of her current UTI, which is befuddling her. It's just that it takes so long to get things done. We ended up going out 2h later than planned for today.


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  13. truth24

    truth24 Registered User

    Oct 13, 2013
    5,725
    North Somerset
    Unfortunately the decrease in spacial awareness is very common with this illness which makes life dIfficult coming downstairs. Do you have a grabrail on the opposite wall to the bannister. Found that made a great difference to my OH.
     

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