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Parkinson's Disease with Dementia -
By Sandra Fuson, Staff Writer
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
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
Confusion and disorientation