According to the Alzheimer’s Society, dementia can be defined as “the broad term used to describe a number of different conditions affecting the brain, including Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, frontotemporal dementia, and more.”
Dementia is the ‘umbrella term’ that encompasses over 100 different types of conditions, some more well-known than others, and in the UK, Alzheimer’s is the most common form.
Alzheimer’s disease is thought to be caused by the abnormal build-up of proteins in and around brain cells, called amyloid and tau. Deposits of tau form ‘tangles’ within brain cells. The first symptoms that the person or their loved ones may notice are to do with memories, and as time goes on, different areas of the brain shrink, meaning the person becomes less able to manage everyday tasks independently.
Brain cells need oxygen and nutrients which are carried to them in the blood by the vascular system, a network of vessels that – if they become blocked – will prevent blood reaching the brain cells which will die. Vascular dementia is the eventual result.
Abnormal proteins are also the cause of Frontotemporal dementia (FTD), which affects the two lobes at the front of the brain, the frontal and the temporal lobe. As with Alzheimer’s disease, if these proteins build up they will damage and eventually destroy key areas of the brain.
Parkinson’s disease can manifest when a substance called dopamine is reduced, due to a loss of nerve cells in a particular part of the brain. Dopamine helps to regulate movement in the body, so as it reduces, the person’s movements will slow down, and as the disease progresses they will usually experience tremors, shaking and rigidity.
As with dementia, there is currently no cure for Parkinson’s, however in all cases the focus is on managing the condition and ensuring that the person living with Parkinson’s is supported to live their best life possible.
The relationship between dementia and Parkinson’s
According to Dementia UK, “Most people with a diagnosis of Parkinson’s do not go on to develop dementia – although about a third will, usually in the later stages. This is known as ‘Parkinson’s disease with dementia’ and may also be referred to as Lewy body dementia.”
While not everyone living with Parkinson’s disease will go on to develop dementia, the risk is higher than for someone who doesn’t have Parkinson’s.
Lewy body dementia
As with several other types of dementia, Lewy body dementia is caused by a rogue protein, in this case, referred to as Lewy bodies, building up inside brain cells. While they can build up throughout different parts of the brain, they will particularly affect the areas responsible for thought, regulating sleep and alertness, movement, and visual perception. Lewy body dementia can be subdivided into two types of dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies and Parkinson’s disease dementia.
Parkinson's disease dementia
Symptoms of Parkinson’s disease dementia and Lewy Body dementia will often be very similar and both will eventually lead to the person having difficulty with everyday tasks. The symptoms can be flipped around depending on whether the person has Lewy Body dementia or Parkinson’s disease dementia, for instance with Lewy Body dementia “changes in thinking, visual perception (cognitive symptoms) and sleep may be experienced first and difficulty with movement (Parkinsonian symptoms) – occur at the same time or later”, whereas with Parkinson’s disease dementia it is the other way around and “Parkinsonian symptoms are experienced first followed by cognitive changes.”
Help with Parkinson’s and dementia from Helping Hands
Helping Hands have been supporting people living with Parkinson’s disease and all forms of dementia for over 30 years, and while your life may be a little different after your diagnosis you shouldn’t imagine that you can’t still live independently – albeit with some extra support from our professional and compassionate carers. Our Parkinson’s and dementia care can be delivered on a visiting, live-in or even nurse-led basis, so whatever stage of your condition you’re at and however complex your needs, we can help. You may only require a few hours of care a week during the early stages of your condition, however as it advances or you move into palliative care, you may require around the clock support.
Our carers can help with every aspect of your care, ensuring that you remain as independent as possible and live your very best life in the home you love. Your bespoke care package will ensure your needs are provided for to the very highest standards, and thanks to your personalised support plan, nothing in your routine will ever be missed. Your carer can also work with other members of your multidisciplinary team such as your GP, OT or district nurse to ensure you’re fully supported with every task, including:
- Personal care
- Medication administration
- Meal preparation and nutrition support
- Promoting independence and restoring your confidence
- Fall prevention and management – ensuring your environment is perfectly planned
- Reduced mobility
- Housekeeping tasks such as laundry, vacuuming and making beds
Talk to our friendly customer care team today to discover more about how Helping Hands could be supporting you or a loved one. They’re available seven days a week to advise you, or alternatively contact us via our website and we’ll be happy to call you back.
Page reviewed by Kerry Feltwell, Regional Clinical Lead on July 9, 2021