Dementia refers to a collection of possible symptoms of cognitive decline, such as memory loss. However, different types of dementia can have different signs. For some people, these signs include dementia posturing, which involves stiff movements, hunched posture, and a shuffling walk.

Dementia usually has various mental and physical symptoms, including mood changes, thinking problems, and movement difficulties. The risk of developing dementia can increase with age, but it is not a standard part of aging.

This article discusses what dementia posturing is and how dementia can affect posture and movement overall. It also discusses the available treatment options.

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Dementia posturing refers to the changes in posture that may result from the onset of dementia. According to the Alzheimer’s Society, those with Lewy body dementia experience movement difficulties, such as changes to their posture, that progress over time.

Posture refers to how the body positions itself when sitting and standing and how a person moves overall. Static posture refers to how a person holds themselves while standing or sitting. Many things can affect posture over time, such as excessive sitting in certain chairs or carrying heavy loads on the back.

Lewy body dementia is a type of dementia in which abnormal protein deposits reside in the brain, resulting in changes in thinking, movement, behavior, and mood. It can affect the posture by:

  • stiffening and slowing the movement of limbs and causing trembling
  • weakening the posture, resulting in a stooping back
  • causing shuffling when walking
  • causing difficulty in maintaining balance

A stooping posture due to dementia can result in falls that lead to injury.

Other types of dementia include:

Read more about dementia here.

Losing some nerve cells is a standard part of aging. However, the neurons in the brain of a person with dementia stop working at a greater rate. They become unable to connect with other brain cells. The symptoms of dementia can vary among individuals and types of the disease.

Besides common cognitive signs, such as memory loss, poor judgment, and confusion, the potential physical signs of dementia include:

  • wandering and getting lost in a familiar neighborhood
  • taking longer to complete standard daily tasks
  • losing balance and having issues with movement

Different types of dementia can all have varying physical signs.

  • Lewy body dementia: Lewy body dementia is one of the most common types of dementia. A person with this dementia type can still have symptoms such as memory loss. However, they can also experience problems with movement and balance, such as stiffness or trembling. Other potential symptoms of Lewy body dementia include difficulty sleeping during the night and visual hallucinations.
  • Alzheimer’s disease: According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 60–70% of dementia cases, making it the most common type. While memory problems are the trademark symptom of Alzheimer’s disease, the condition can also cause difficulty with walking.
  • Vascular dementia: Vascular dementia is linked to strokes or mini-strokes and accounts for around 10% of dementia cases. It also has the potential to cause physical symptoms. It depends on which part of the brain the blood flow issues affect and to what extent.

Posture difficulties are often a symptom of dementia, along with other movement-related issues.

Mobility and aging

A 2016 study investigated cognitive decline by looking at the relationship between motor function and cognition in older adults. The study focused on the following areas of cognitive and motor functioning:

  • visual perception
  • memory
  • mobility
  • posture

The researchers gave 160 healthy adults aged 50–89 years a series of movement and cognition tasks. Their results showed a link between upright posture, movement, and different cognitive processes. The study provided evidence of a connection between postural alignment and cognitive functioning in healthy older adults.

Additionally, a 2022 scientific report concluded that a stooping posture is an easily identifiable indicator of cognitive decline in older adults.

Alzheimer’s disease and posture

People with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease also have postural instability, according to a 2017 study. The researchers of this study found that some people with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease focused more on their postural stability during a measurement test and so made more errors in a cognitive task performed at the same time.

Other people with the condition had reduced postural stability because they focused more on the cognitive task performed at the same time.

All types of dementia are progressive and pass through different stages. Physical symptoms may be mild at first but can eventually have a severe impact on a person’s life.

Early stage or mild dementia

At the early stage, a person may have issues with visual perception, making it hard to judge distances — for example, when using stairs. People with Alzheimer’s disease or Lewy body dementia are the most likely to experience this problem.

Of the different forms of dementia, Lewy body dementia is most likely to lead to significant physical changes at the early stage. However, if a person with vascular or mixed dementia has a stroke, they may experience weak limbs on one side of their body.

Middle stage or moderate dementia

People with all types of dementia experience changes in their physical symptoms at the middle stage. This can include:

  • difficulties with using the toilet
  • agitation and restlessness, such as fidgeting or walking up and down
  • greater difficulty moving
  • reduced walking speed
  • being less steady on their feet, increasing their risk of fall

Late stage or severe dementia

A person is likely to need a lot more support with daily living once their dementia has reached the late stage. This is partly due to the physical changes they experience. These may include:

  • walking in a slow, unsteady shuffle
  • increased risk of falling
  • spending more time in a chair or bed
  • difficulty swallowing
  • needing help to eat
  • loss of bowel and bladder control

The Department of Health and Human Services offers various tips for helping loved ones or family members with dementia. A caregiver may try:

  • encouraging the person to maintain a regular routine, which can include eating, washing, and dressing at the same time each day
  • encouraging the person to do activities they enjoy, such as exercising or reading, and helping them plan those activities
  • helping them maintain their independence by using to-do lists, notebooks, and calendars to organize appointments and events
  • helping the person with dementia to feel as in charge as possible when doing collaborative activities
  • aiming for consistency and familiarity, such as when doing activities
  • helping the person avoid clothing that may cause issues, such as buttons, belts, and shoelaces, and opting for zips and elastic waistbands instead
  • filling their surroundings with familiar objects and photographs that make them feel secure
  • allowing them as much control over their life as possible and respecting their personal space
  • avoiding dismissing or questioning them and listening openly to concerns and frustrations

Learn more about caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease here.

Dementia describes a collection of symptoms of cognitive decline, with memory problems being perhaps the most well-known. Some people, especially those with Lewy body dementia, develop what is known as dementia posturing.

Stiffness, stooping, and shuffling are all potential physical signs of the condition. Dementia progresses through early, middle, and late stages. Late stage dementia causes the most severe, life altering physical symptoms and increases the risk of falls.