Apathy in Parkinson’s Disease

Day 26 – Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Month continues…

I posted an infographic the other day about Parkinson’s disease. It didn’t have the non-motor symptoms listed on it and it was brought to my attention. For a list of non-motor symptoms, check this out. For today, I am going to focus on one non-motor symptom: apathy

Just what does apathy mean? Some say that the opposite of hate isn’t love, but apathy – an attitude of not caring. Miriam Webster defines it as showing little or no feeling or emotion. Spiritless. There’s little or no intereste or concern. You feel 

  • indifferent
  • complacent
  • disinterested
  • unconcerned
You are
  • lukewarm
  • aloof 
  • cold 
  • numb
  • unemootional
  • detached
  • unfeeling
  • insensitive
  • unattentive

Ever feel that way? I highlighted the word spiritless above, because I think that sums up the whole mess. 

Apathy can be pretty pathetic and discouraging when you come across it in someone. Most people who are apathetic cause you to feel frustrated by their seemingly sense of detachment and unfeeling attitude toward life. However, in a person wwith Parkinson’s disease, often beknownest to them what is truly happening, they don’t want to feel this way. They don’t want to feel numb, lifeless, spiritless

Some tend to believe that apathy and depression are one of the same. According to the Journal of Neuropsychiatry, “Apathy is defined as diminished motivation not attributable to decreased level of consciousness, cognitive impairment, or emotional distress. Depression involves considerable emotional distress, evidenced by tearfulness, sadness, anxiety, agitation, insomnia, anorexia, feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness, and recurrent thoughts of death.” In a study conducted several years ago, doctors concluded that in Parkinson’s disease, apathy is present, but depression is more consistent with the disease. So do we ignore the sometimes and shoot for the consistent? No. It all needs to be addressed. So where do you start?

I have struggled with both aspects of these two specific non-motor symptoms. Apathy has robbed me of time. Opportunities. So has depression. Whereas apathy has left me feeling unemotional and numb, depression has left me in darkness, despair and desperation. When they have coincided with one another, it has felt like a ticking time bomb in my head and spirit. It is a scarey place to be and it is real.

For me, part of thee apathetic feeling I had came from feeling like I didn’t know what to do next. Feeling stuck in those ‘off’ moments. Keeping a list of things I want to accomplish or need to accomplish, no matter how simple or mundane it may seem, helps to bring things back into focus. Here are some practical suggestions for those moments when you feel bound in the land of apathy (and they help for depression mode, too):

  • Get up, take a shower, get dressed. Don’t think about it. Don’t allow yourself to get distracted. Do it. Laying out your clothes the night before may sound childish, but who cares? It makes your life easier.
  • Get some exercise. Stretch. Walk. Go for a swim. If you can’t motivate yourself, ask someone to help you/keep you accountable. To pull you out of the house if they must, and drag you along until you’re going along because you now see just how good you feel.
  • Take your medications on time. This involves sorting them ahead of time and having them ready to pop in your mouth when you are taking a handful each time. When you’re feeling apathetic or depressed, it is easy to just forget it becasuse unscrewing five child-proof prescription bottle caps four times a day isn’t something you’re going to feel like doing and you’ll pay for it within the hour. 
  • When you have things you really shouldn’t put off, do the things you hate first. That will make accomplishing your goals easier.
  • Talk to a friend. Have someone pray with you and/or for you. Having another person to share life’s struggles makes the struggle bearable.
  • Talk to your doctor. There are treatments for apathy and depression for people with Parkinson’s disease who find themselves fighting to stay sane. This disease already takes enough from us. Don’t let it have your joy and happiness, too.

 

 

Day 21: Parkinson’s Disease and Dementia, Part 1

I had a reader ask the question: “Why is there never any commnets on Parkinson’s dementia? It is very real and 40% of Parkinson’s patients deal with it.”

So I began to look into it. And a simply answer to the question posed would be, “because I don’t want to think aobut that stuff.” It’s frightening, to say the least. To propose that this disease could dominate and take over my mind (different than that being my ‘brain’), amongst the other things it’s already taken, frightens me.

But it is a real possibility, no matter how frightening.

An estimated 50 to 80 percent of those with Parkinson’s eventually experience dementia as their disease progresses. The average time from onset of Parkinson’s to developing dementia is about 10 years.

It is believed that the two most common causes for dementia in older people are Alzheimer’s disease  (a progressive mental deterioration that can occur in middle or old age, due to generalized degeneration of the brain. It is the most common cause of premature senility.) and another condiiton called vasular dementia, which is a condition that involves changes to the brain’s blood supply. However, Parkinson’s disease, an HIV infection, head injuries and Lewy body disease have also been known to caused an arise of dementia.

What complicates matters further is that in those having PD dementia, plaques and tangles are also present. Plaques: not the kind dentist removes from your teeth. Tanlges: not the kind you comb out of your hair. No, we’re talking serious stuff here. Plaques are deposits of a protein with a funny name that form around blood cells that have died. As they form through death, these little monsters begin to cling to one another and form clumps – plaques. The little monsters build up between good nerve cells, preventing them to send messages to each other properly.

Tangles are formed of of nerve cells known as tau protein that are either on their way or have made it to death row. They bunch togehter, twisting (or tangling) around each other, forming tangles of nerve cell fibres. While tangling up the paralles stands of tau protein nerve cells, they fall apart, disintegrate and destroy the cells’ irreplaceable communication system.

While all this is going on unawares to the patient, the plaques and the tangles quietly continue to gather inside of the brain, causing other nice and healthy nerve cells to eventually wither away and die a silent death and the area of the brain in which these little monsters had their fun fest shrinks.

If a person with Parkinson’s disease also has these so-called plaques and tangles, this complicates things, as these are the hallmark brain changes that have been found linked to Alzheimer’s disease.

I told you we didn’t want to think about this stuff. But, it’s real. It’s a part of Parkinson’s disease that we need to be aware of, not so that we can try not to think about it, but so that we are able to receive treatment sooner than later, hopefully to postpone some of dementia’s ugly symptoms.

More tomorrow…

Day 19: It’s Not All Parkinson’s Fault

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Here something most people without PD don’t realize…

The time for a cure is

 

not tomorrow, not next week, not in the future, but 

Leonardo daVinci said, 

“I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. 

Knowing is not enough; 

we must apply. 

Being willing is not enough; 

we must do.”


So I ask you…


Time could be running out…

Help to find a cure for Parkinson’s disease.

©parkinsonsjourney.com