As Parkinson’s progresses, it will cause dementia in approximately 50-80% of sufferers. The dementia experienced by people with PD is associated with abnormalities that start in the mid-brain. These include difficulties with attention, organizing, multi-tasking, shifting attention, task completion, decision-making, problem solving, memory retrieval and word-finding.
This can be compared to Alzheimer’s dementia, which typically starts in the entorhinal cortex, and often next spreads to the hippocampus, the area where memories are formed. The result is that Alzheimer’s disease tends to present first as short term memory loss.
When cognitive decline and/or dementia appears less than a year before, or at the same time, as the onset of motor symptoms the diagnosis of Lewy Body Dementia (LBD), may be made. When the motor symptoms appear more than a year before the dementia, it is generally diagnosed as Parkinson’s disease. The two can appear very similar. People with PD or LBD both have abnormal clumps of proteins, called lewy bodies, in the brain stem. One of these proteins, alpha-synuclein, cannot be broken down by cells. Lewy bodies surround cells in the brain, causing the problems with motor coordination, and eventually leading to brain degeneration.
It is crucial that someone with PD takes their medication as prescribed and on time. If they do not, delirium may occur, the symptoms of which are similar to dementia. Thus, it is important to monitor how medications are taken. If you are concerned that dementia is developing, bring an accurate list of symptoms you are seeing or experiencing when you see your neurologist. If possible, your representative, a caregiver, friend or family member should be present during your appointment.
While primary help must come from a trusted medical team, people with Parkinson’s and their family members and caregivers should also seek out support and information from an organization such as the Parkinson Society British Columbia. They will give you tips, literature, and tools for managing the emotional and practical symptoms of the disease. Counseling and support groups are also available through the Society.
Contact Parkinson Society of British Columbia by phone 604.662.3240 or toll free 1.800.668.3330 or by email[email protected]
TIPS ON TALKING WHEN SOMEONE HAS DEMETNIA