• gait and balance disorders;
  • dementia;
  • Alzheimer's disease;
  • diagnosis

Objectives: To compare the prevalence, severity, and type of gait and balance disorders in Alzheimer's disease (AD), vascular dementia (VaD), Parkinson's disease with dementia (PDD), dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB), Parkinson's disease without dementia (PD), and age-matched controls.

Design: Cross-sectional.

Setting: Secondary care clinics in geriatric psychiatry, neurology, and geriatrics.

Participants: Two hundred forty-five participants aged 65 and older (AD, n=40; VaD, n=39; PDD, n=46; DLB, n=32; PD, n=46; and controls, n=42).

Measurements: Prevalence and severity of gait and balance disorders were assessed using the Tinetti gait and balance scale. The types of gait disorders in each diagnostic group were classified using the Nutt et al. classification.

Results: Gait and balance disorders were more common with PDD (93%), VaD (79%), and DLB (75%) than with PD (43%) and AD (25%) and in controls (7%). The risk of gait and balance disorder was higher in the non-Alzheimer's dementia groups (VaD, PDD, and DLB) than in the AD group (odds ratio=15 (95% confidence interval=6–37). If a gait disorder was present in mild dementia (Cambridge Examination for Mental Disorders of the Elderly cognitive subsection score >65), this was diagnostic of non-Alzheimer's dementia, with sensitivity of 78% and specificity of 100%. Non-Alzheimer's dementia groups had worse Tinetti gait and balance scores than the AD group (all P<.001). The types of gait disorders discriminated between non-Alzheimer's dementias.

Conclusion: The findings support the idea that gait and balance assessment may augment the diagnostic evaluation of dementia.