Parkinson’s disease is associated with dementia or may lead to dementia. Parkinson’s disease is a progressive disease that affects many middle-aged and older adults. The disease includes symptoms such as tremors, stiffness, slow movement, and impaired balance.
Parkinson’s Disease Symptoms: Dementia
Some Parkinson’s Disease patients experience dementia, or impairment of mental functioning.
As many as 65% of people with Parkinson’s may develop dementia symptoms as the disease progresses. Sometimes these dementia symptoms are just considered part of the disease, but sometimes a separate diagnosis — for instance, of Alzheimer’s disease — may be made. There is also a great deal of overlap in the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease and Lewy Body dementia, for instance. Physicians use a variety of techniques and tests to make a correct diagnosis.
A wide range of symptoms can be exhibited by those with Parkinson’s disease and dementia, from mild to severe, as well as a host of medications to help treat Parkinson’s related dementias. Severe dementia is rare for those patients who do not exhibit signs of dementia at the onset of their Parkinson’s disease symptoms.
Challenges for Caregivers
In a recent study, the Family Caregiver Alliance (FCA) found that Parkinson’s Disease caregivers spend an average of 96 hours per week, or 14 hours per day, caring for their loved ones. They have higher levels of depression than other caregivers, more of them are caring for spouses and many are suffering from medical conditions, including diabetes and heart disease. The physical demands of caregiving also are higher among PD caregivers. The FCA found that 45 percent of those cared for in the study require help eating, 69 percent need help bathing, 71 percent need help dressing, 65 percent need help toileting and 67 percent need help transferring (bed to chair, etc.).
Parkinson’s Disease caregivers also get less sleep than other caregivers, with 56 percent regularly being woken at night to care for their loved ones. In the regular caregiver population, that number is 40 percent. Add to that the emotional rollercoaster that dementia creates and it’s easy to see how providing care for a PD patient stricken with dementia can take its toll.
Tips for Caregivers
1. Don’t try to get them to be logical, rationale and reasonable. This is expecting too much.
2. Don’t try to get them to make agreements. They aren’t in a position to make agreements.
3. Don’t always tell the truth. Sometimes being honest isn’t the best choice. For instance, if your loved one needs to be on an antidepressant to alleviate anxiety or a sleeping medication so that the caregiver can get some rest, it may be in both the caregiver’s and the patient’s best interest to say the medicine is for your memory or some other acceptable symptom if the person would have trouble accepting a pill that is for depression.
4. Don’t make complex requests. Remember to use one command at a time. If you say, “Go upstairs and change your clothes,” you’ve just given five commands: get up, go to the stairs, walk up the stairs, take off your clothes and put your clothes on. That’s probably too much for a person with dementia to remember.
Dealing with Difficult Behaviors
1. Remember that it’s the disease talking and that your loved one’s brain cells are not communicating properly. Try not to think things like, “This must be what they really thought of me all along and never told me.”
2. Know that a person with dementia has no control over what they are doing or saying. Don’t get angry or hold it against them. They cannot help their behavior.
3. Use distraction as a way to get the person off of being negative or accusatory. Fighting back won’t solve anything and will just make them angry.
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