When a someone with Parkinson's disease develops a progressive dementia at least two years after a diagnosis of Parkinson's disease, and other causes of dementia have been ruled out, he or she may be diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease Dementia or PPD.
Approximately 25-30% of all patients with Parkinson's disease also have dementia. However, for those who have lived with Parkinson’s disease for 15 years, the prevalence of PDD increases to 68%.
Signs and Symptoms of Parkinson’s
There are primary and secondary symptoms of Parkinson's disease. Not everyone with the disease experiences all of the symptoms and the progression of the disease is different from person to person. Most people who get Parkinson's are over 60, but there have been identified cases in younger men and women.
- Slow movement (Bradykinesia)
- Resting tremors
- Poor balance
- Difficulty swallowing
- Choking, coughing, or drooling
- Excessive sweating
- Loss of bowel and/or bladder control
- Memory and cognitive changes
- Anxiety, depression, isolation
- Scaling, dry skin on the face or scalp
- Slow response to questions
- Small, cramped handwriting
- Soft, whispery voice
- Sleep disorders including REM (Rapid Eye Movement) Sleep Disorder
- Orthostatic hypotension
- Emotional changes
A systematic neurological exam will be needed to diagnose Parkinson’s disease. This includes testing reflexes, observing muscle strength throughout your body, coordination, balance, and other details of movement. These tests are also necessary to rule out other conditions. Your doctor may also order tests, such as blood or urine tests or CT or MRI scans, to exclude the possibility of other disorders.
There is currently no cure for Parkinson’s disease; however, there are ways to address the
symptoms including prescription medications to treat symptons, physical and occupational therapy, and less conventional, Parkinson’s specific exercises like Big and Loud therapy and Rock Steady Boxing. Additionally, there are surgical options for patients with Parkinson’s disease, the most common of which is known as Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS). This form of surgery is sometimes used to help reduce the severity of muscle rigidity and slowness of movements. Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) involves placing a wire into the brain connected to a pacemaker-type device implanted just below the skin in the chest.
Sings of Parkinson’s Disease Dementia
Dementia is a less common feature of Parkinson’s disease. Approximately 20% of people with Parkinson’s disease will develop Parkinson’s Disease Dementia (PDD). Parkinson’s patients who experience hallucinations and more severe motor control problems are at risk for dementia. For those patients with Parkinson’s disease who go on to develop dementia, there is usually at least a 10- to 15-year lag time between their Parkinson’s diagnosis and the onset of dementia.
Signs of dementia in Parkinson’s patients include:
- Slowed thinking
- Lack of motivation
- Memory problems
- Ask your healthcare provider to arrange a home safety evaluation.
- Use grab bars in the tub and shower.
- Use a bath chair or stool in the shower.
- Keep your floors smooth but not slippery.
- Store supplies in easy to reach cabinets.
- Make sure stairwells and walkways are lit.
- Get nightlights for bathrooms and hallways.
- Keep walking areas free of clutter.
- Wear low-heeled, comfortable shoes when walking around. Avoid walking in slippery socks and slippers.
- Make sure carpets are fully tacked to the ground, and avoid throw rugs.
Click here to download a brochure with more information about Parkinson’s Disease Dementia