Are you or a loved one living with Parkinson’s disease? If so, you know that it is a complex and challenging condition that affects not only movement but also other aspects of daily life.
While the tremors, stiffness, and difficulty with movement that are commonly associated with Parkinson’s are well-known, many people may not be aware of the cognitive changes that can also occur in Parkinson’s disease.
From memory loss to attentional difficulties and beyond, cognitive impairment in Parkinson’s disease can greatly impact one’s quality of life.
What Is Parkinson’s Disease?
Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disorder that affects the central nervous system, specifically the nerve cells in the brain that produce dopamine, a chemical messenger that helps control movement and coordination. The cause of Parkinson’s disease is not fully understood, but it’s believed to be a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
The most well-known symptoms of Parkinson’s disease are motor symptoms such as tremors, stiffness, and difficulty with movement. Other common symptoms include:
- Slowness of movement
- Rigidity (stiffness)
- Difficulty maintaining balance
- Difficulty walking
In addition to these motor symptoms, non-motor symptoms such as cognitive impairment, sleep disorders, depression, and anxiety can also occur.
These symptoms may vary from person to person and may change over time. In the early stages of the disease, symptoms may be mild, but they will gradually become more severe as the disease progresses.
How Does Parkinson’s Affect Cognition?
Cognitive impairment in Parkinson’s disease can manifest in several ways, including difficulty with:
- Visuospatial tasks
- Lack of motivation
Some people with Parkinson’s disease may experience mild cognitive impairment, while others may develop more severe forms of dementia.
One of the most common cognitive issues associated with Parkinson’s disease is difficulty with memory. People with Parkinson’s disease may have trouble forming new memories, or they may have difficulty recalling information that they’ve previously learned.
This can make it challenging for them to remember appointments, people’s names, or other important details.
People with Parkinson’s disease may have trouble focusing on a task or staying on task for an extended period. This can make it difficult for them to complete complex tasks or follow through on a set of instructions.
This type of cognitive impairment is often referred to as “attentional impairment” or “attentional deficits”.
In addition to memory and attentional difficulties, people with Parkinson’s disease may also experience problems with decision-making. They may have trouble weighing the pros and cons of different options or making choices that are in their best interest.
People with Parkinson’s disease may have difficulty with tasks that require visual perception and spatial awareness, such as reading a map or judging distances. This type of cognitive impairment is often referred to as visuospatial difficulties.
People with Parkinson’s disease may have difficulty with language, such as difficulty finding the right words, difficulty following conversations, and difficulty understanding spoken or written language.
Lack of Motivation
People may lose interest in activities they once enjoyed and may become less socially active.
Parkinson’s disease can also affect the level of neurotransmitters in the brain, which can lead to depression and anxiety. It’s important to note that depression and anxiety are common among people with Parkinson’s disease and are not a sign of weakness or a personal failing.
If you or a loved one with Parkinson’s disease is experiencing depression and anxiety, it’s important to speak with a healthcare professional. They can provide treatment options such as medication, therapy, and support groups that can help manage these symptoms.
How to Treat Cognitive Issues
There are several treatment options available for cognitive impairment in Parkinson’s disease, including medications, cognitive therapies, and lifestyle changes.
Medications such as cholinesterase inhibitors, which are used to treat Alzheimer’s disease, may be prescribed to help improve memory and thinking.
These medications work by increasing the levels of a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine in the brain, which is involved in memory and learning.
Cognitive therapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and cognitive rehabilitation may also be used to help improve cognitive function.
These therapies involve working with a therapist or cognitive rehabilitation specialist to identify and address cognitive difficulties and develop strategies to manage them
Regular exercise, a healthy diet, and staying mentally and socially active can also help to improve cognitive function. Exercise has been shown to improve mood, attention, and memory, and a healthy diet can help to protect against age-related cognitive decline.
Staying socially active can also help to maintain cognitive function, as social interactions can provide mental stimulation and help to keep the brain active.
Memory Care at Foxtrail
For those dealing with cognitive impairment due to Parkinson’s disease, memory care at Fox Trail is an excellent option. Our community offers specialized memory care services and a safe, secure environment for those with Parkinson’s disease and other forms of dementia.
Staff is trained to provide specialized care and support to help residents maintain their independence and improve their quality of life. Our community also offers a wide range of daily activities, stimulating social events, and specialized therapy programs, aimed at promoting cognitive function and overall well-being. Book a visit if you’d like to learn more about Fox Trail.