A recent study found that over 65% of Parkinson’s patients age 70 and older will have begun to develop Lewy body dementia, the type called “Parkinson’s disease with dementia (PDD). That's the bad news. The good news is that there are many things that PD families can do to fight those odds—to extend the years prior to its appearance and to decrease its effect even after it does show up.
1. Accept that dementia is a likely PD symptom—sometime. Understandably, acceptance may be difficult. However, without it, you aren’t going to succeed with the other steps. You can't fight something you don't believe is an issue.
2. Maintain a healthy life style. Stay physically, mentally and socially active and being proactive about what you eat. This is true anyone who wants to avoid any kind of dementia. (That’s all of us, right?) You can find information about this in many places. Several books in our Book Corner discuss the importance of a healthy lifestyle, as do articles on the LBDA and Alzheimer's Assn websites. Or just google "avoiding dementia" on the internet.
3. Be alert for drug sensitivities. The ones of most concern are inhaled anesthetics and behavior management drugs. There is a very thorough review of this problem in our book, and it should be required reading for every PD family. Be sure you know the risks before you agree to major surgery. Behavior problems related to LBD can show up long before any noticeable signs of dementia and the drugs often used to treat acting-out are among the most dangerous for a PDD patient. In fact, as LBD encroaches, drug sensitivities in general can increase and so be careful with all drugs. Start with a much lower than normal dose of, for instance, an over-the-counter cold medication or headache remedy, and work up until you get the benefit you want—or side effects you don’t.
4. Do all you can to decrease stress. For some reason, LBD increases with stress. Identify those areas in your life that are stressful and work with your family and friends to make them less stressful. For instance, if you have communication difficulties, consider a relationship counselor so that you can smooth things out. If your job is stressful, can you change jobs—or even retire? Reduce clutter in your home. Check light levels-many PD and LBD people are light sensitive. There are many more ways to reduce stress. Some are mentioned in our book, some in Pat Snyder’s book, others you will think of as you go along.
If you maintain a healthy lifestyle, are very careful about the drugs you use, and work diligently to keep stress levels low, you can extend the “good years” for a long time.