Is this alien hand?

Hi all,

My dad has been grabbing hold of his caregivers on the arm or around the neck during transfers with a grip like a vise. He's bruised the caregivers and my mom. It's difficult to get him to let go. The crazy thing is that when the caregivers explain that he's hurting them, he apologizes. He's embarrassed because he really doesn't know what his hands are doing. The caregivers have to keep his fingernails very short so the nails don't cut into them. At times they have put my dad's winter gloves on him so he can't get that grip. Has anyone else experienced this? Is it alien hand?



20 Replies

  • Hi Carla, I haven't experienced it yet as we are in the early stages but I do recall reading posts on this site referring to this. Nanny857 

  • No it's not alian hand it is the psp grip. It was explained to me that they can have a vice like grip. When Brian held onto anything we hed to prise his hand open but after he had a mini stroke he lost the strength in his hand. And through fear and uncertainty they will try and hold onto anything that is close arm neck or something they have put in his/her hand. We tend to put Brians hand on a hand grip or a sponge to save our arms etc.

    Alian limb is when they feal that limb does not belong to them. Also the brain doesn't regester it as part of thier body. 

    Hope this helps and gives you some ideas to cope with the psp grip. Janexx 

  • This is so right and so well put... The brain is just nit sending the correct signals.

  • Yes, I too experience this, I never let my husband hold onto me , I make sure I link my arm through his and hold onto him. He is the same when using grab rails I have to prise his hand off them and he grabs door handles trying to take door with him. It's extremely difficult isn't it, I sympathise with you. X 

  • Oh that is just it! And when he needs to go to the toilet but won't let go of a door handle I can get quite anxious!

  • Wonderful new picture easterncedar!

  • Thanks!  He's as handsome as that in real life, too!

  • Jane has explained what it is. C has a vice like grip and has done so since before being diagnosed. We'd walk hand in hand and one day mine was crushed. Now his upper arms are "fixed" to his body making dressing difficult and he crushes his knees together so firmly I told him I was going to use them as nut crackers.  I have to make sure he always has a pillow between his knees as they become very red.  It's impossible to separate his knees physically but if I stroke them he relaxes and they part.  Although PSP causes weakness in the legs making standing impossible, there is still immense strength elsewhere on the body.


  • I've heard it described as "dead hand", where the grip just closes without volition and then won't respond to the person's will to release.  My guy has a powerful grip,  but generally latches on only to inanimate objects, fortunately.  Still it's pretty maddening when you are trying to move on from something, and I am constantly saying "let go, let go let go" which is boring for everyone. 

  • My dad had this right up until the last breath more or less. His arms became folded over his chest with his hands clenched. No one explained this properly although I believed it to be the PSP, so I now have an answer and more info on this illness. Dad wore his wedding ring on a chain around his neck and would hold on to it, one day it snapped this explains why. Although dad is at peace I will continue to learn about this illness!!! All the best on your journey xxx

  • My hubby has a vice like grip, usually used when I am close and he is frustrated over something. He also always apologises and can't understand why he does it, not like the 'real' him at all and he gets upset. Have found that if I am going to be that close that I do not approach him face on but sit beside him and explain what is happening (if cutting his nails etc) and haven't had a problem since.

  • Thank you everyone for sharing your common experiences and tips with me. It helps to know so many have the same symptom.

     One of my dad's caregivers sings the Disney Frozen them song, "Let it Go", when my dad latches on :). My dad's also had the grip for years. When he was still walking and he would crush our hands without realizing it.  Now he also makes a very angry face which is the cue to slow down and talk to him and be patient until he understands so he is more cooperative. He also has the crossed legs which are very difficult to separate. He constantly slides down in his recliner. We are always needing to pull him back up. Need to get some sticky seat material. Thanks again for all the advice! Good to know it's not alien hand! 

  • Oh wow I'd never really twigged this was a PSP thing although now with hindsight obviously is! Mum doesn't grab onto people thankfully (well she grabs my jumpers etc and tugs at them but not my skin thankfully) but she frequently grips onto grab rails and door handles and the sink etc. it's good to realise this is a other PSP thing and not just mum being awkward ! 

  • Everyone here is correct. My dad started with left hand - he could not tell how hard he was gripping my hand and my hand would turn blue - that progressed to holding on tightly to chairs and things and we had to pry his hands off. I think it s the damage PSP causes to brain cells and they cannot tell how much pressure they are exerting. Also there is fear, as cruel as this disease is, the patient is mostly cogniscient mentally and they fear falling and not being able to rely on their once able body- imagine free falling and have no way of protecting yourself . As the disease progressed, his hand became stiff and curved upward so that his brain did not register it as part of his body. I am sorry you have to go through this. My Dad found peace 6 months ago and we are still trying to make sense of it all.stay strong!

  • My mom also has the grip. It makes my dad crazy. I just explain to her that it isnt safe and gently stroke her hand and she will relax. It is better but comes and goes. When she is anxious it is worst.

    This is my first reply here, usually just read others questions and answers. I just wanted to thank everyone here. I have received much advice and help here.

  • Hi Barbara. Thanks for the reply. The grip certainly seems to be a defining symptom of PSP. Where are you from?

  • Hi everyone. Hand gripping g is not just PSP. My F has been diagnosed classic CBD now and he has this mainly in left hand but progressing to right. We use a handkerchief to put in his hand. I think it's a basic instinct like babies gripping on. It does have it's funny side though. When we used to use lifts with the wheelchair I nearly left F sitting on floor as I pulled chair backwards and he was still hanging g on to rail. It also gave the ambulance drivers a shock when it looked like he didn't want to leave home by clinging to the banister.

    It not always the grip that's a problem but the inability to release. We have found that any sudden movement or feel of force makes F tense up more. Stroking and gentle touch works. Oh and you can't wear rings. Ouch.

  • John is the same but has been diagnosed Parkinsons , I always make sure I leave his Mand outside the sheet over his legs and under his arms . If they stay inside he would press / dig his hands firmly into his thighs . Could see the nail marks however short I filed them . 

  • Carlam not alien hand but pit bull grip- what I call it. F locks on and can't / won't let go. A surgeon got upset once and told him he needs his hand to make a living and refused to shake his hand ever again. I now grab his wrist not hand so I am in control but he still gets the " upper hand " sometimes. Everyone's posts made me laugh because he does it all. Nice to know its not just him. What is not funny is the  unsuspecting recipient. For awhile he would squeeze my jugular vein and I would almost black out. Your mom should not be subjected to this practice even if it is a sympto of the disease. Good news is you can work around it with planning .  You can also use it to your advantage like having hi pull himself up with the bed rails. Good luck!


  • Yes, it's therapeutic to hear all the similar stories. Thanks everyone!

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