Posted on Oct 29, 2019 in Dementia Care
Parkinson’s dementia is used to refer to the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease pertaining to impaired thought processes, memory and overall mental function.
While you’d perhaps normally associate Parkinson’s disease (PD) with movement issues, it can also affect the memory, attention span and general thinking skills.
Dementia is an umbrella term for a series of progressive conditions that affect the brain.
Before we delve down into Parkinson’s dementia specifically, we’ll take a quick glimpse at the multiple stages of the debilitating progressive disease that is Parkinson’s to put things into general context.
If your doctor diagnoses you with Parkinson’s disease, there’s a sliding scale used to rate the stage of the disease. Your progress can then be tracked by assessing motor symptoms like movement or tremors along with non-motor signs like a loss of smell.
Here’s a quick summary of the 5 stages of Parkinson’s disease.
Parkinson’s disease is a relatively common disorder affecting around 2% of the over 65’s.
With 60,000 Americans each year being diagnosed with PD, roughly 70% of these will go on to experience some form of dementia within 10 years of diagnosis, so what actually causes Parkinson’s dementia?
The problems related to thinking and memory brought about by Parkinson’s disease are caused by changes in the chemistry and structure of the brain.
While researchers are still trying to establish how the brain becomes damaged in the lead-up to dementia, it’s believed that Parkinson’s dementia results from tiny deposits known as Lewy bodies.
These microscopic Lewy bodies are found in the nerve cells of the brain stem. When PD starts progressing, Lewy bodies spread out from the brain stem into other segments of the brain. This brings about dementia.
Is there any difference at all between this type of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, then?
Where dementia is a staple of Alzheimer’s, dementia doesn’t occur in fully 30% of cases of Parkinson’s disease so this is the major difference.
On the downside, Parkinson’s dementia tends to have a greater impact on overall social functioning than in those with Alzheimer’s due to the way both motor and cognitive function is impaired.
A number of symptoms overlap but there are also more differences. Where Alzheimer’s normally impacts memory and language, Parkinson’s generally affects executive function – problem solving – memory, speed of thinking and mood.
We’ll take a look now at some of the risk factors for developing dementia…
While none of the following risk factors are the direct cause of dementia, the more factors that are in place, the greater the chance is for dementia to be presented.
To reiterate, none of these factors alone will assuredly lead to Parkinson’s dementia so don’t panic just because you’re advancing in years.
Here are some of the symptoms of dementia to keep an eye out for…
If you think that you could be suffering from the onset of Parkinson’s dementia, what can you do about it?
Before anything else, make an appointment with your doctor. If possible, get a referral so you can see a movement disorders specialist or a neurologist.
There’s currently no way that the progress of Parkinson’s or Parkinson’s dementia can be stopped but that’s not to say it’s not possible to manage the symptoms.
Medication, especially a drug called Rivastigmine, can be effective. Counseling and therapy can also be of some use so it’s not a hopeless cause even if there’s no cure on the horizon.
To round out, what can you do to help out if a family member is diagnosed with Parkinson’s dementia?
If one of your parents or other elderly relatives is suffering from dementia, this can be hard to handle as the lines between fact and fantasy become blurred.
It’s often unwise to leave those with later stage Parkinson’s alone, especially if they’re exhibiting signs of dementia.
If you find your loved one becoming agitated, confused or upset, here are some simple pointers to help them calm down…
If you have any further concerns about Parkinson’s dementia, don’t hesitate to contact us. Here at Landmark Senior Living and we’ll do what we can to set your mind at rest.