Do Seniors with Parkinson’s Typically Develop Related Conditions?

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Parkinson’s disease is a progressive disorder that primarily affects the nervous system. Symptoms generally start slowly with barely noticeable tremors and escalate to slow movement and slurred speech. However, research shows Parkinson’s is most commonly linked to certain conditions, including Alzheimer’s and a type of dementia known as dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB). Understanding the effects of Parkinson’s and the conditions linked to the disease can help families better plan for the future and preserve quality of life for their senior loved ones.

Understanding Lewy Bodies

The link between Parkinson’s and some forms of dementia is evidenced by the presence of certain abnormal proteins in the brain discovered by Dr. Frederick H. Lewy. Known as Lewy bodies, these abnormal proteins develop inside nerve cells of seniors with Parkinson’s as well as those with dementia.

Overlapping Symptoms

While problems with thinking and reasoning are often associated with dementia, these same symptoms appear in individuals with Parkinson’s disease, and they become more severe over time in both seniors with dementia and aging adults who have Parkinson’s. In addition, some seniors with dementia develop problems with movement. This overlapping of symptoms has led a growing number of experts to suggest Parkinson’s and dementia with Lewy bodies may be different expressions of the same underlying protein abnormalities.

Aging in place can present a few challenges for seniors living with dementia. However, they can still live independently at home with the help of professional dementia care. Vancouver families can rely on Home Care Assistance to provide their elderly loved ones with mental and social stimulation, timely medication reminders, assistance with meal prep, and much more. Our caregivers are available around the clock to help your loved one live a happier and healthier life.

Diagnosing DLB & Parkinson’s

Dementia care experts and doctors tend to opt for a diagnosis of dementia with Lewy bodies when symptoms commonly associated with dementia are present along with increased difficulty with movement. If dementia symptoms haven’t appeared within at least a year or so after an initial diagnosis, seniors are usually characterized as having Parkinson’s.

When Parkinson’s is diagnosed early, seniors have a better chance of controlling the symptoms of the disease and lessening the severity of associated conditions, including dementia. Older adults and their family members often confuse the warning signs of Parkinson’s with the normal effects of aging and don’t seek medical attention. However, when treatment is started early, it has a much better chance of being effective.

Some of the early warning signs of Parkinson’s include:

• Changes in gait
• Problems with sleeping
• Odd facial expressions
• Slowness of movement
• Decreased coordination
• Quivering voice
• Messy handwriting 

If your senior loved one has been diagnosed with a serious condition and needs help with tasks like meal prep, transportation, bathing, and grooming, reach out to Home Care Assistance, a leading provider of elderly home care Vancouver, BC, families can trust. We also offer comprehensive care for seniors with dementia, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s.

Treating the Disease

Since a conclusive diagnosis can only be made during an autopsy, a determination of which condition a senior has comes down to a doctor’s best judgment based on detectable symptoms and the individual’s medical history. As with dementia, there’s no cure for Parkinson’s disease, and currently, there’s no method of treatment that can halt the brain cell damage caused by either condition. However, many of the symptoms of Parkinson’s can, at the very least, be controlled by certain medications if the condition is diagnosed during the early stages. A primary care physician can also recommend healthy lifestyle changes to alleviate symptoms associated with Parkinson’s disease and dementia. For example, your loved one’s physician may prescribe cholinesterase inhibitors to treat cognitive issues such as visual hallucinations, behavioral challenges, and sleeping difficulties.

In addition, depression is often a serious issue for many aging adults living with both Parkinson’s disease and dementia. Doctors often treat depression by prescribing selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which are antidepressants that can enhance self-esteem, reduce the odds of aggressive behavior, and lessen the severity of negative feelings.

Caring for a senior loved one can be challenging for families who don’t have expertise or professional training in home care, but this challenge doesn’t have to be faced alone. Family caregivers can turn to Home Care Assistance for the help they need. We provide high-quality live-in and respite care as well as comprehensive Alzheimer’s, dementia, stroke, and Parkinson’s care. Schedule a free in-home consultation by giving us a call today at (778) 279-3634.

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