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2016 Grants - Hunter
Paradoxical Effects of Mobility Aids on Postural Stability in Dementia
Susan Hunter, Ph.D.
The University of Western Ontario
London, Ontario, Canada
2016 Alzheimer’s Association Research Grant (AARG)
What are the unique needs of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease who require the use of mobility aids?
Older individuals with dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, are more likely to fall and experience serious injuries compared to healthy older individuals. A common intervention to prevent falls in older adults is to prescribe the use of a mobility aid, such as a walker. However, several studies have found that mobility aids may increase the likelihood of a fall in individuals with Alzheimer’s disease. This may be due to the fact that using mobility aids requires the brain to multi-task; individuals must pay attention to the environment and plan movement while pushing or leaning on the mobility aid. In addition, individuals with Alzheimer’s disease often have problems with balance and vision, which can also make the use of a mobility aid difficult. A better understanding of these unique challenges is needed to provide effective interventions to prolong mobility in individuals with Alzheimer’s disease.
Susan Hunter, Ph.D., and colleagues will conduct a study to determine how the use of a mobility aid affects stability and walking patterns (or gait) in individuals with mild or moderate Alzheimer’s disease. Participants and their caregivers will be interviewed to gain a better understanding of the challenges of using mobility aids. The research team will also determine which types of vision and balance problems are commonly present in individuals with Alzheimer’s disease, and explore how these combined with cognitive impairment, may contribute to decline in mobility.
This research could shed new light on the specific needs of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease who require the use of mobility aids. Importantly this work could inform the development of more effective approaches to improve mobility, prevent falls and preserve independence and quality of life for people Alzheimer’s disease.