Parkinson’s Disease Dementia: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Parkinson’s

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Parkinson’s Disease is a progressive disease that damages the central nervous system. It is one of the more common types of Dementia. According to the Parkinson’s Foundation, 930,000 Americans live with Parkinson’s Disease. Parkinson’s Disease can lead to Parkinson’s Disease Dementia, which affects reasoning, thinking, and problem-solving that researchers believe affect at least 80% of those living with Parkinson’s Disease.

What is Parkinson’s Disease Dementia?

Parkinson’s Disease is chronic and progressive. It is a movement disorder that causes your muscles to tighten and become rigid, making it hard to walk and do everyday activities. Those living with Parkinson’s may have tremors and develop cognitive problems as well as Dementia.

Parkinson’s is most common in those over the age of 50. On average, Parkinson’s Disease develops around 60 years old. When those younger than 50 develop Parkinson’s Disease, this is known as early-onset Parkinson’s Disease. If someone in your family has early-onset Parkinson’s, you are more likely to develop it as well. The older you become, the greater the risk of developing Parkinson’s. This Disease is more common in men than women.

As Parkinson’s develops further, it begins to affect memory and thinking problems like changes in the structure and chemistry in the brain, leading to Parkinson’s Disease Dementia. Scientists are still trying to determine how the brain becomes damaged in those living with Parkinson’s Disease that causes Dementia.

What Causes Parkinson’s Disease Dementia?

What Causes Parkinson’s Disease Dementia

The leading cause of Parkinson’s is decreased dopamine production in the brain. The absence of dopamine makes it much harder for the brain to coordinate movements of the muscles.

Low dopamine levels can also play a role in your mood and cognitive problems.

While scientists are not sure how most of the time Parkinson’s is triggered.

But they do think, in some cases, there are genetic and environmental factors that do play a role in Parkinson’s Disease.

Early-onset Parkinson’s Disease is often genetically caused by a gene mutation.

How is Parkinson’s Dementia Different from Alzheimer’s Disease?

Dementia goes hand in hand with Alzheimer’s Disease. In contrast, if you have Parkinson’s Disease, it is not guaranteed that you will develop Dementia.

There is some overlap between the two different types of Dementia. Alzheimer’s affects language and memory, and Parkinson’s Disease affects problem-solving, thinking speed, mood, and other cognitive functions.

Most individuals living with Parkinson’s Disease develop Parkinson’s Disease Dementia as the progression of Parkinson’s worsens. Typically they do not have both Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

Lewy Body Dementia vs. Parkinson’s Disease Dementia

Lewy Body Dementia vs. Parkinson's Disease Dementia

Lewy Body Dementia and Parkinson’s Disease Dementia are similar. Lewy Body Dementia is a progressive type of Dementia that is caused when abnormal deposits of protein known as alpha-synuclein develop in the brain. These same Lewy bodies are seen in Parkinson’s Disease.

There are some similarities worth noting between Parkinson’s Disease Dementia and Lewy Body Dementia. These include:

  • Movement symptoms
  • Rigid muscles
  • Thinking and Reasoning Impairment

There seems to be some connection that is linked to these similar abnormalities though more research needs to be done to confirm this.

What Are the Risk Factors of Parkinson’s Disease Dementia?

What are the Risk Factors of Parkinson's Disease Dementia

While the causes of Parkinson’s Disease are still unknown, there are many factors that scientists believe which contribute to Parkinson’s Disease that are both genetic, environments, and a combination of both.

Typically, when healthcare providers diagnose Parkinson’s Disease, they describe it as idiopathic, which means its cause is unknown.

Over time, memory and thinking problems can develop by changes in the brain structure and chemistry, causing Parkinson’s Disease Dementia. It is essential to know the risk factors of Parkinson’s Disease while discussing Parkinson’s Disease Dementia.

Genetic Risks of Parkinson’s DIsease

It is estimated that genetic factors primarily cause less than 10% of those living with Parkinson’s Disease. The most common genetic factor is a mutation in a gene called LRRK2. This defect is most commonly found in North African or Jewish families.

Other mutations in alpha-synuclein have also been a trigger to Parkinson’s Disease, but it is much rarer than LRRK2.

Environmental Risks of Parkinson’s Disease

Environmental factors can lead to an increased risk that causes Parkinson’s Disease. These include:

  • Significant exposure to pesticides
  • Certain heavy metals
  • Repeated head injuries

Because many years pass between these environmental factors and when the first Parkinson’s Disease symptoms appear, it is difficult to establish a direct correlation. Although the connection is difficult to connect, scientists still believe that these environmental factors do play a role in the cause of Parkinson’s Disease developing.

Other Risk Factors of Parkinson’s Disease Dementia

None of these risk factors cause Dementia on their own. Still, the more risks you have, the higher your chances are of developing Parkinson’s Disease Dementia. These risk factors include:

  • Increased age
  • Male
  • Older age when symptoms of Parkinson’s Develop
  • Advanced stage Parkinson’s Disease
  • Visual Hallucinations
  • Family History of Dementia
  • Severe Motor Symptoms
  • Existing mild cognitive impairment

How Many People With Parkinson’s Disease Develop Dementia?

The development of Parkinson’s Disease Dementia depends on each case. A majority of those living with Parkinson’s Disease will develop some cognitive impairment. Some other factors that play a role in the development of Dementia are:

  • How long have you had Parkinson’s Disease?
  • What Stage of Parkinson’s are you in?
  • Age.

About 20-30% of those with Parkinson’s Disease will not develop Dementia as their Parkinson’s progresses.

Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease Dementia

Symptoms of Parkinson's Disease Dementia

When it comes to Parkinson’s Disease Dementia symptoms, can take some time to appear and can vary from person to person. Parkinson’s Dementia affects not only movement impairments from Parkinson’s, but it also affects their memory and behavior. Symptoms may include:

  • Forgetting simple tasks. These simple tasks may include turning on the TV, using the phone, or even making coffee.
  • More Disoriented than Normal. Those living with Parkinson’s Disease Dementia may find themselves more disoriented in familiar situations.
  • More confused than usual.Those living with dementia struggle with many things that lead to confusion. To help with this confusion. To help with this confusion, it is best to stick to a structured schedule.
  • Short and Long Term Memory Impairment.
  • More agitated. As your loved ones struggle to do things independently, you may see them becoming more unsettled.
  • More irritable. Another typical symptom of Dementia is being irritable.
  • More aggressive. Aggression is a typical symptom of all forms of Dementia.
  • Hallucinations. Individuals living with Parkinson’s Dementia may see or hear things that are not real.
  • Delusions. Those living with Parkinson’s Disease Dementia, or PDD, may have paranoia, thinking, suspicion or distrust.
  • Problems with visual perception. This includes difficulty finding objects in a cluttered space or navigating places both familiar and unfamiliar.
  • Struggle with language. Those living with Parkinson’s Disease Dementia will struggle with language as the Disease progresses, including naming objects, forming complex sentences, thinking, or using the right word in a sentence. They may even have a slowed speech that Parkinson’s Disease causes.

End-Stage Parkinson’s Disease Dementia

The later stages of Parkinson’s Disease Dementia have severe symptoms which may require around-the-clock care. Once those living with Parkinson’s Disease Dementia reach this stage, you may notice a very rapid decline.

Risk of infection, pneumonia, and choking increases.

Several people can help during this stage of Parkinson’s Disease Dementia. They include:

  • Hospice
  • Home health aides
  • Social workers
  • Support counselors

Diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease Dementia

Diagnosis of Parkinson's Disease Dementia

There are no tests or combinations of different tests to help doctors confirm their patients have Parkinson’s Disease Dementia. The following guidelines are used by healthcare workers when confirming this diagnosis.

  • The patient has a Parkinson’s Disease diagnosis based on symptoms related to movements, and it has been at least one year after this diagnosis before Dementia symptoms appear.

Tips for Visiting Your Doctor

You want to get the most out of your visit with your doctor. Review these tips to get the most out of each visit.

  • Know the reason for your visit.
  • Write down your questions before your appointment. This ensures you remember to ask all your questions.
  • Bring someone with you to help you remember your questions and the key points of each visit.
  • Write down any new medications, treatment options, and diagnoses.
  • Understand why new medications are being prescribed as well as their side effects.
  • Ask about any new treatments or clinical trials for which you may be a candidate.
  • Write down all follow-up appointments, including the date, time, location, and purpose of the visit.
  • Be sure you know how to contact your doctor in between appointments.
  • Get a care summary for your visit from your doctor.

Treatment For Parkinson’s Disease Dementia

Treatment For Parkinson's Disease Dementia

There is no cure or treatment to help slow or stop Parkinson’s Disease Dementia. Your doctor can help you manage your symptoms better. If you have Parkinson’s Disease Dementia, you will want to talk with your Parkinson’s doctor about your concerns about your Dementia.

Medications

Studies show that some medications developed for Alzheimer’s Disease have benefits to those living with Parkinson’s Disease Dementia. These medications include: rivastigmine, donepezil, and galantamine.

Deep Brain Stimulation

Currently, Deep Brain Stimulation is not suggested for use with those living with Parkinson’s Disease Dementia. Still, one small clinical study recently proved that it was safe for use. More studies need to be done to test its effectiveness and if it is safe to use on those living with Parkinson’s Disease Dementia.

Therapy

There are a variety of therapists that may help manage PDD better. Your healthcare provider may recommend working with a speech pathologist, occupational, and physical therapist.

What To Do Once You Have Parkinson’s Disease Dementia?

What To Do Once You Have Parkinson's Disease Dementia

If you or a loved one think that they have Parkinson’s Disease Dementia, getting the whole family educated with this new diagnosis is important. Take these ten steps to be best prepared to help your loved one who has Parkinson’s Disease Dementia.

  • Confirm Diagnosis. The first thing you want to do is make sure that you confirm the diagnosis.
  • Find a Doctor that is familiar with Parkinson’s Disease Dementia. Since there are no tests to confirm a diagnosis of PDD, it is essential to be working with a doctor that is up to speed specializing in helping those with Parkinson’s Disease Dementia.
  • Educate Yourself. Those living with Parkinson’s Disease Dementia should educate themselves on PDD, but family members and caregivers should as well. This includes the following:
    1. Medical. Seek a doctor specializing in Parkinson’s Disease Dementia to diagnose and talk about the prognosis and initial treatment plan.
    2. Legal. It is essential to talk and plan with a lawyer early! You will want to discuss your healthcare and financial wishes. A lawyer can help draw up the proper paperwork needed so that your loved ones can continue to advocate for you when you can no longer advocate for yourself.
  • Meet as a Family. All your close family members need to be aware of your diagnosis. If you have younger children, you do not need to share all the details of your diagnosis, but they should be aware of your condition.
  • Include your loved one in decisions. Often at first, the whole family wants to get involved in helping take care of their loved one who has Parkinson’s Disease Dementia; this includes making decisions for them. When you do this, be sure you still involve your loved one in the process of decisions. Usually, when a Parkinson’s Disease Dementia diagnosis is given, they are still in a good place to make decisions.
  • Monitor Safety. Monitor safety issues at the time of diagnosis. Pay attention to the following areas.
    1. Can your loved one who is living with Parkinson’s Disease Dementia drive safely? Your loved one’s doctor can help with this.
    2. Watch for financial scams. Those living with Dementia are at greater risk of falling for financial scams and frauds.
    3. Manage Medications. You will want to confirm the medications your loved one should take and the doses with their doctor. Fill the pillbox each week and then put the rest of the medications in a safe place. Assist your loved one with managing medications.

Tips For Caring For Those With Parkinson’s Disease

Tips For Caring For Those With Parkinson's Disease

Caring for those with Parkinson’s Disease Dementia can be challenging, especially when your loved ones have a hard time telling the difference between fact and fantasy. When behavioral changes occur it can be especially hard on those caring for them. Over time those living with Parkinson’s Disease Dementia may not be able to be left alone and will require 24-hour care. These tips can be used to help those living with Parkinson’s Disease Dementia.

  • Those living with Dementia can be more confused after any operation, so if your loved one living with Parkinson’s Disease is having surgery, be aware that things might be a little more confusing after surgery.
  • Simplify your home. Those living with Dementia get distracted and confused easily. Simplifying your living area can help eliminate some confusion.
  • Stick to a routine. Those who are living with Dementia do much better with a structured schedule.
  • Nightlight. Have nightlights on at night where those living with Parkinson’s Disease Dementia will go. This helps reduce visual misperceptions.
  • Keep calm. Easier said than done at times, but try to keep calm and take a deep breath when things get challenging. Take the time to keep your loved one company to prevent loneliness.
  • Show love. Show love and affection for your loved one living with Parkinson’s Disease Dementia.
  • Understand their intentions. While your loved one living with Dementia may have paranoid attacks and have false claims, remember that this is the disease not them.

Does Everyone with Parkinson’s Get Dementia?

While not everyone that develops Parkinsons will get Dementia, a vast majority will. 20-30% of those with Parkinson’s will not get Parkinson’s Disease Dementia.

Prognosis of Parkinson’s Disease Dementia

Parkinson’s Disease and Parkinson’s Disease Dementia damage and eventually destroy brain cells. Since both diseases are progressive, they will continue to worsen over time. The speed of this progression varies depending on many factors.

Life Expectancy with Parkinson’s Disease Dementia

According to research, those living with Parkinson’s Disease Dementia may live on average of 5-7 years, but this varies from person to person.

When Should You Contact Your Healthcare Provider?

When Should You Contact Your Healthcare Provider (2)

Parkinson’s Disease Dementia is not a medical emergency. If you think you or a loved one is living with Parkinson’s Disease Dementia, you will want to make an appointment with your healthcare provider to get a medical evaluation and discuss your new symptoms. While there is no treatment or cures, they can help you become more comfortable through therapy and medications if needed.

Key Points of Parkinson’s Disease Dementia

  • About 70-80% of those living with Parkinson’s Disease will develop Parkinson’s Disease Dementia.
  • As Parkinson’s develops further, it begins to affect memory and thinking problems like changes in the brain structure and chemistry leading to Parkinson’s Disease Dementia.
  • Most individuals living with Parkinson’s Disease develop Parkinson’s Disease Dementia as the progression of Parkinson’s worsens. Typically they do not have both Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
  • Lewy Body Dementia and Parkinson’s Disease Dementia are very similar; both are caused by abnormal deposits of protein known as alpha-synuclein to develop in the brain.
  • Males are more likely to develop Parkinson’s Disease Dementia.
  • Once a diagnosis has been made, the whole family needs to understand the diagnosis.
  • The speed of this progression varies depending on many factors.
  • The average life expectancy of those living with Parkinson’s Disease Dementia is 5-7 years.

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