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Dementia and Parkinson’s Disease

What would you say if your spouse asked you this question, “Do you think I have dementia?” How would you respond? Would you be truthful? Would you sugar-coat your answer?

My answer was this, “I see some signs of it, Honey, do you?” And he reluctantly agreed with me.

That was our most recent conversation about dementia, but it was not our first. It was the first time he had put the question to me, but we had talked about it in general in the past.

The first faint signs that I noticed occurred about 5 years ago. Even though this is our 20th year of PD, in my research I have seen statistics that say a decline of cognition can occur any time during PD. This article states that 50-80% of PD patients will develop dementia. I even know of a case where dementia was one of the first symptoms of Parkinson’s, which really surprised me.

Each of us is aging, and at times we just can’t find the right word to describe something. In my unprofessional opinion, that is not dementia. The troubling symptoms I noticed in my husband were more about connections. During a television show he did not pick up on inferences. He couldn’t figure out how people were related to each other and to the story. This happened occasionally at first, and then more and more.

In several areas of our lives, I can see a progression from not being able to follow a lengthy explanation of events, to a lack of interest in those events. Finances are now too complicated for him. Following the activities of our grandchildren and our daughters, is also too taxing.

The events in the first paragraph of this blog occurred this week. On that same day, my husband suddenly said, “Remember that guy?” When I replied, “What guy?” He could not find the right words to describe who he was talking about or what he wanted to tell me about him. I had no idea who he was talking about. So, I began asking questions – almost like the game “20 Questions” to try to get some context as to what he was trying to tell me. After about 10 minutes of carefully crafted questions on my part, we figured it out!

When I saw this coming a few years ago, I read several articles about dementia and how to deal with it. Here are a few pointers I remember from my research:

  1. Don’t ask if they remember something. They don’t.
  2. Don’t say, “I’ve told you 4 times already!” That only makes them feel bad. Just tell them again – the 5th time.
  3. Don’t take it personally, as if they aren’t listening. Just repeat.

Here are some suggestions from another article on dementia.

I can see that this frustrates my husband even more than it frustrates me. He wants to appear to be as alert and sharp mentally as ever, but he is not. This does not make him less important, less loved, less respected. My job is to be sure he feels important, loved, and still respected.

Are you seeing signs of dementia with your loved one? I would love to hear how you’re coping with it.

Thanks for reading and commenting. We’re in this together!

Author:

I'm a retired mathematics teacher, wife, mother, and grandmother. My new job is caregiver to my husband.

10 thoughts on “Dementia and Parkinson’s Disease

  1. Reading of events that occurred for you this week make my heart sad. The caregiver commandments bought tears to my eyes. I am sending love and prayers for both of you.

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  2. Really like the 10 commandments. Need to put it where I can read it every morning. The hardest is not to say “don’t you remember” when you have just said it several times that day. With all the doctor’s appointments the past few weeks, it has been a constant”what are we doing today and what time”.

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    1. They are a big help to keep me positive. I know what you mean about appointments and changes in schedule. They make it difficult to keep up. Thanks for reading, my friend!

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  3. Thank you for those caregiver commands. So kind and gracious. My husband’s memory problems come and go. I was sure he had Lewy Body last June but the doctor tested his B12 levels and they were really low so he gave him a B12 shot. Within a few days, his memory was almost normal. I say “almost” because he has gradually become more disorganized, more unable to remember names, and totally incapable of handling our finances. But even so, at times his memory is truly horrible and a B12 shot invariably helps. Thought I would pass this along in case someone might want to have their spouse’s B12 checked. (Other symptoms of low B12 are weakness, tiredness, or lightheadedness, heart palpitations and shortness of breath, pale skin, a smooth tongue, constipation, diarrhea, loss of appetite, or gas, vision problems, and nerve problems like numbness or tingling, muscle weakness, and problems walking.) As you can see, Parkinson’s and B12 deficiency share many of the same symptoms so it’s easy to miss.

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    1. Thank you for this information, Katherine! I have never thought of having his B12 checked, but we certainly will do that. Those symptoms describe my husband too! Even though they are not thought of when one thinks of Parkinson’s Disease, they are truly bothersome and can be present in the PWP. Thanks so much for posting this.

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