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Jerking movements

Medical and physical issues


The lady who comes to clean my mother’s house complained one day that my mother had kicked her. I apologised on behalf of my mother and she was very understanding. Then one day, the same thing happened to me. I was so surprised, but when I looked at my mother I realised that so was she and we both laughed.

Occasionally, people with dementia suffer from involuntary jerking movements of the arms, legs or body. They are not like fits because they are not repetitive movements, but just involve a single movement of an arm or leg. Someone might, for example, suddenly fling an arm out to the side for no apparent reason. The only real problem arises if someone gets hurt, either a bystander or the person with dementia themselves. You should therefore not worry about it happening, but simply reassure the person and try to prevent them from coming to any harm and from injuring others.

How to cope with jerking movements

Although jerking movements of the arms, legs and body are nothing to worry about, it is a good idea to take a few precautions in order to minimise the risk of injury. The person with dementia might bruise or cut a leg on a low table or bang an arm against a wall. A sudden jerking movement might also cause an object to fall. Knocking over a cup of hot liquid such as tea or coffee would be particularly dangerous. Unfortunately, it is not possible to predict when a jerking movement is going to occur and there is no effective treatment (as drugs tend to have side effects). If jerking movements occur early on, when the dementia is mild, it would be a good idea to check with your doctor in order to reconfirm the diagnosis.

You can still take general precautions - such as making sure that there is nothing that might cause injury around the chair where the person sits during the day. For example, you could make sure that coffee tables are not placed where they could be kicked and that there are no breakable or sharp objects on cupboards beside the chair. You could also warn members of the family and friends to be careful when approaching the person with trays or drinks and mention the possibility of this happening if it is quite frequent. You might also need to reassure the person with dementia, who may be equally surprised and possibly feel upset about unintentionally hurting someone.



Last Updated: Tuesday 11 August 2009