Insights into Parkinson's disease dementia
Yesterday was Parkinson’s awareness day. In light of this day, we want to shine a light on the condition Parkinson’s and another condition that can be experienced by Parkinson’s patients, named Parkinson’s dementia.
What is Parkinson’s disease?
Parkinson’s disease is a progressive neurological condition that destroys or damages the central nervous system. According to the Parkinson’s Foundation, around 1 million people were living with Parkinson’s disease last year, with over 60,000 Americans being diagnosed each year. The condition mostly occurs in adults over the age of 65.
What is Parkinson’s disease dementia?
People living with Parkinson’s disease are likely to experience a condition caused by the disease, namely Parkinson’s disease dementia. Symptoms of this condition are a rapid decline in thinking, reasoning, and also problem-solving and are mostly diagnosed a year after a patient’s Parkinson’s diagnosis. Around 50% - 80% of people living with Parkinson’s will develop Parkinson’s dementia.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, Parkinson’s disease is causing changes in the brain of patients. These changes are starting in an area of the brain that is crucial for movements. Once the changes of the brain start to spread due to the disease, they are often starting to affect the mental functions of patients as well, including attention span, memory, or problem-solving.
Over the course of time and with more brain changes to come, many patients experience disorientation, confusion, agitation, and impulsivity - all signs that the dementia is progressing. Some patients even experience hallucinations or delusions as a side effect of Parkinson’s disease, which can be very hard on patients.
What can caregivers do to help patients?
Patients and calm are essential for people living with Parkinson’s disease dementia. Caregivers should therefore be very comforting after medical procedures, stick to normal routines to not confuse patients, limit distractions, and for example, stick to strict sleeping schedules.
Unfortunately, there is no treatment or drug that can cure the condition. Therefore, doctors are usually focussing on treatments meant to relieve Parkinson’s disease symptoms rather than dementia. Hereby, it is essential to discuss with doctors if medication is not worsening symptoms of dementia. This shows that medical research is crucial for people living with chronic conditions to find new treatments and diagnostics and give them back the quality of life.
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