A new study published by Alzheimer’s & Dementia found a link between the way someone walks, and the specific damage inflicted on their brain’s function due to Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. This link may be able to be used as a clue for diagnosing different types of dementia. Currently, there are limited diagnoses tools available to medical professionals when it comes to memory impairment.

The study was conducted by observing 110 people 60-years-old and older. Within the group, 29 had mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and served as controls. Of the rest of the participants, 36 had early stage Alzheimer’s disease and 45 had early stage Lewy body dementia. The controls were used because of the frequency in which people with MCI end up developing Alzheimer’s and dementia later on.

The study was conducted by analyzing participants’ walking patterns on special mats with thousands of sensors. Analysis showed that the group of participants with Alzheimer’s disease rarely changed their walking patterns, but that the participants with Lewy body dementia often changed their patterns, including the time and length of their stride. When comparing the groups, researchers concluded that they could predict which participants had dementia with 60 percent accuracy.

While further studies still need to be done to support initial findings shared in this study, they offer important clues into diagnosing memory impairment correctly. Current diagnosis processes involve cognition tests and scans of the brain in order to find a diagnosis. It is often difficult to distinguish between Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Lewy body dementia.

As more research is conducted on the causes and effects of memory impairment, we are able to not only provide a more accurate diagnosis, but we are gaining a clearer understanding of exactly what is going on in someone’s brain when they are memory impaired. This gives us more opportunities to open our minds to new ways to enhance the quality of life of those in our care based on their unique experience.

We can all benefit from connecting, sharing knowledge and supporting one another through the journey of caring for someone living with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Becoming Dementia Aware is an important step in enhancing the lives of those in your care.

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