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Parkinson's Disease with Dementia -
Special Challenges

By Sandra Fuson, Staff Writer

(Page 1 of 4)

In the U.S. today there are more than one million people with Parkinson’s Disease (PD). Approximately 50,000 new cases are diagnosed annually. PD is a progressive movement disorder that affects the central nervous system. Its causes are unknown, and while physicians can manage some symptoms of the disease, there is no known cure.

Primarily individuals over the age of 60 are most at risk for developing PD, although cases as young as 30 years old have been diagnosed (juvenile PD). For some patients, however, hallucinations and severe uncontrollable muscle difficulties make them especially vulnerable for dementia as PD progresses.

Dementia has been defined as cognitive impairments that are sufficient to interfere with activities of daily living. Dementia worsens over time, with cognitive processing declining each year faster than that of the general population. Most people think of Alzheimer’s disease when dementia is mentioned, although there are many types of dementia with various causes.

Estimates are that 20 – 30 percent of the patients with PD will develop dementia, generally after age 70. If it is going to develop, there is generally a 10 to 15 year lag from the time that motor difficulties appear with PD. If symptoms of dementia appear earlier, experts suggest that the cause could be something other than PD.

Signs of Dementia:

Before discussing possible causes of dementia, it would be helpful to explore what signs or symptoms the PD patient may experience. Dementia will first be noticed at home, not in the doctor’s office, even if you don’t have a name to put with it. Since caregivers are with their loved ones more often than doctors, it is helpful to bring any changes in behavior to the doctor’s attention.

    Some of the most common signs of dementia in PD include:

    Memory recall and processing

    Impaired thinking, often at a much slower rate

    Apathy or lack of motivation

    Moodiness

    Confusion and disorientation

    Easily distracted

 

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