Do Aging Adults with Parkinson’s Have an Increased Risk of Dementia?

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Parkinson’s disease (PD) is considered a nervous system disorder because it primarily affects movement. However, according to the Alzheimer’s Association, it’s common for people with Parkinson’s to experience a decrease in certain cognitive abilities. But does having Parkinson’s disease automatically increase a senior’s risk for dementia? Here’s what you need to know.

It’s Statistically Likely

The Alzheimer’s Association notes anywhere from 50 to 80 percent of people with Parkinson’s disease do eventually develop some type of dementia. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, experts aren’t sure why there’s a correlation between PD and dementia. As for when dementia may appear in a senior with PD, the Alzheimer’s Association references additional studies suggesting the average time it takes for dementia to develop after the onset of Parkinson’s disease is about a decade. However, cognitive problems may develop sooner for seniors who aren’t diagnosed until symptoms become noticeable.

Cognitive issues can make it difficult for seniors to live at home independently. Aging in place can present a few unique challenges for older adults. Some only require part-time assistance with exercise or meal preparation, while others are living with serious illnesses and benefit more significantly from receiving live-in care. Harrisburg, PA, Home Care are leaders in the elderly in-home care industry for good reason. We tailor our care plans based on each senior’s individual needs, our caregivers continue to receive updated training in senior care as new developments arise, and we also offer comprehensive care for seniors with Alzheimer’s, dementia, and Parkinson’s.

PD-Related Brain Changes Can Affect Thinking

To understand why seniors with Parkinson’s may be at risk for developing dementia, it helps to know how PD affects movement. This happens because of changes in the parts of the brain that control various body movements. These changes typically contribute to classic Parkinson’s symptoms, such as tremors, instability, muscle stiffness, a noticeable shuffle while walking, and changes in facial expressions. As these changes spread, they may extend to parts of the brain that control memory and other cognitive functions.

There’s a Common Link with Lewy Bodies

The symptoms of Parkinson’s disease that affect mental functions, memory, and thought processes are collectively referred to as Parkinson’s disease dementia (PDD). A known link between these cognitive symptoms and PD in general is a protein found in the brain called alpha-synuclein.
Deposits of this protein are known as Lewy bodies. These protein clusters are associated with both Parkinson’s disease and a form of dementia called Lewy body dementia. There’s also evidence suggesting some individuals with Parkinson’s may have the same plaques and tangles in the brain that have been linked to Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia.

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, a leading provider of elder care Harrisburg, PA, families can trust. We also offer comprehensive care for seniors with dementia, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s.

Certain Risk Factors May Increase Dementia Risk for People with PD

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, some of the risk factors that could contribute to Parkinson’s disease in seniors may also increase the risk of developing a dementia-related condition. Some of the main ones include:

  • Being 65 or older
  • Having more severe PD-related motor symptoms
  • Having existing issues with mild cognitive impairment

Additional risk factors that may increase the odds of dementia in older adults with Parkinson’s include excessive daytime sleepiness and experiencing hallucinations without yet having dementia. There’s also a Parkinson’s symptom pattern referred to as postural instability and gait disturbance (PIGD) that may increase the risk of dementia in people with PD. PIGD is a symptom that results in freezing mid-step.

Symptoms specifically associated with Parkinson’s dementia to look out for in a loved one with PD include:

  • Difficulty interpreting visual information
  • Paranoid ideas or delusions
  • Depression
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Noticeable changes in judgment, memory, and/or concentration

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 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. Trust Home Care to provide high-quality compassionate, professional care for your loved one. If your loved one needs help with the challenges of aging, call one of our compassionate Care Managers today at (717) 540-4663.


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