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Parkinson’s Disease Dementia

Parkinson’s Disease Dementia

Parkinson’s disease is the second most common neurodegenerative disease in the world, behind Alzheimer’s disease.  It affects the central nervous system, causing a variety of physical symptoms including stiffness, difficulty walking, problems with balance and poor posture.

As the disease progresses, many people experience dementia and a loss of cognitive function.  This form of dementia is commonly referred to as Parkinson’s disease dementia or Lewy Body Dementia.

There is no cure for Parkinson’s disease and it can be a difficult disease to deal with — for both the person afflicted with Parkinson’s and their family.  This article will discuss the symptoms, causes and treatments for Parkinson’s disease dementia.

What Causes Parkinson’s Disease Dementia

Scientists have identified a number of changes in the brain that are related to Parkinson’s disease.  One of those changes is a buildup of microscopic deposits of a protein called alpha-synuclein.

Scientists do not know the precise role of alpha-synuclein in the brain, but excessive deposits of this protein are linked to a variety of brain disorders including Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. The buildups are called “Lewy Bodies”, after the scientist who discovered them in 1912 — Frederic Lewy.  Scientists suspect that a genetic defect makes the brain incapable of processing alpha-synuclein correctly, leading to Lewy bodies developing.

In addition to Lewy bodies, people with Parkinson’s disease dementia often have plaques and tangles in the brain.   Plaques are unusual clusters of a protein called beta-amyloid that builds up between nerve cells.  Tangles are twisted fibers of a protein called tau.  Normally, tau helps to transport brain signals, but when the fibers become twisted, nutrients can no longer travel throughout the brain correctly. Plaques and tangles are common in many other forms of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease.

Approximately 50 to 80 percent of people who have Parkinson’s disease will also suffer from cognitive impairment.  About 20% go those people will suffer from a severe cognitive impairment that is classified as Parkinson’s disease dementia.

Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease Dementia

The first symptoms that a person with Parkinson’s disease will experience are physical.  The dementia component may appear later as their Parkinson’s disease progresses.  The most severe symptoms of Parkinson’s disease include:

  • Tremors in the hands, arms, and jaw
  • Rigidity in the limbs and trunk
  • Slowness of movement
  • Loss of balance and coordination
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Facial masking (an expressionless face)
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Stooped posture

Parkinson’s disease will only affect the cognitive abilities of a person in some cases — typically after the disease has progressed to its later stages.  If a person’s cognitive abilities are seriously impaired, it is referred to as Parkinson’s disease dementia.  Symptoms of Parkinson’s disease dementia include:

  • Memory problems
  • Confusion
  • Personality changes
  • Difficulty speaking or being able to remember words
  • Poor problem-solving capability
  • Depression
  • Difficulty learning new skills and making decisions
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Hallucinations
  • Psychiatric problems

Parkinson’s Disease Dementia Treatments

While there is no cure for Parkinson’s disease, there is a range of treatments available including various drugs, surgery, and physical rehabilitation.  These treatments cannot cure the condition, but can improve the quality of life for Parkinson’s sufferers by reducing their symptoms.

How Non-Medical Home Care Can Help

Living with Parkinson’s disease dementia can be very difficult.  However, with some help, it is possible for Parkinson’s sufferers to remain in the comfort of their own home — in a comfortable and familiar environment that they enjoy.  Some of the ways that home care can help a person with Parkinson’s disease include:

  • Assistance preparing meals
    In-home Caregivers can deliver pre-cooked meals or prepare your favorite meal in your home. They will ensure that you eat a healthy, balanced and nutritious diet.
  • Assistance getting to appointments and social events
    Getting around becomes difficult for people with Parkinson’s disease. Walking is laborious and it becomes impossible to drive a car.  In-home Caregivers can provide transportation to your doctor’s appointments and social events, helping you stay in good health and to live an active social life!
  • Cleaning the home and making it a safe living environment
    In-home caregivers can take care of all of the cleaning around the home. They can also ensure that the home is a safe environment for an elderly person with Parkinson’s disease dementia by completing a site assessment and suggesting changes.
  • They can have a chat and a cup of tea with you!
    One of the best ways to combat the degenerative effects of Parkinson’s disease dementia is to remain socially active and mentally stimulated. Home care staff can sit down and have a stimulating conversation with you, play a game of chess or help you participate in some other activity that you enjoy.
  • Help with rehabilitation techniques
    It is important to engage in the rehabilitation techniques that are prescribed by your doctor. Home care staff can help you perform these techniques each day, slowing the progression of the illness.

We hope you found this article on Parkinson’s disease dementia informative.  If you have any questions about managing Parkinson’s disease dementia, contact All Heart Home Care at 619-736-4677.  We offer in-home consultations and would love to discuss the many home care services available.

Sources

Parkinson’s Disease Dementia | Signs, Symptoms, & Diagnosis. (2016). Dementia. Retrieved 15 June 2016, from http://www.alz.org/dementia/parkinsons-disease-symptoms.asp

Symptoms | Lewy Body Dementia Association. (2016). Lbda.org. Retrieved 15 June 2016, from https://www.lbda.org/content/symptoms

Charles Patrick Davis, P. (2016). Parkinson Disease Dementia: What’s the Progression?. eMedicineHealth. Retrieved 15 June 2016, from http://www.emedicinehealth.com/parkinson_disease_dementia/article_em.htm

Eric Barth
Eric Barth
CEO and blogger for All Heart Home Care. I devote myself to helping seniors age in their own home while maintaining a feeling of independence, preserve their dignity, and enhance the quality of their life. I write these blogs to help educate the public on issues surrounding what seniors find to be the most important. My blogs are from my own personal research. I hope you enjoy my blog posts.

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