Robert A. Underwood, Ph.D.
According to the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation, as many as one million Americans live with Parkinson's disease, which is more than the combined number of people diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy and Lou Gehrig's disease. Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disorder, meaning nerve cells in the mid-brain, along with the associated neurotransmitter dopamine produced by these cells, are gradually lost. Parkinson’s disease causes both motor and non-motor symptoms. Non-motor symptoms include loss of smell, REM Sleep-Behavior Disorder and depression. Motor symptoms include classic resting tremors, stiffness, slowness in movement (bradykinesia), rigidity, and postural instability.
Approximately 20% of individuals with Parkinson’s disease develop dementia, referred to as Parkinson’s disease dementia. An additional 20% of persons with Parkinson’s disease will experience cognitive difficulties, but not to the level of actual dementia. A diagnosis of Parkinson’s related dementia is made if motor symptoms precede cognitive symptoms of dementia by at least one year. If not, then a different form of dementia is most likely present. As a family member of someone with Parkinson’s disease and a Board Member of the Parkinson’s Support Center of Kentukciana, my clinical practice involves compassionate and careful diagnosis and support of individuals with Parkinson’s dementia. Individuals with Parkinson’s dementia typically experience deficits of mental planning, initiation, concept formation, problem-solving, processing speed, motor speed, strategy formation, sustained attention, categorization, visuospatial abilities, memory retrieval, and verbal fluency. Our comprehensive neuropsychological assessment, conducted in a private, supportive, and encouraging environment, helps to identify the presence of these deficits, and to what degree these impairments may be affecting one’s functioning.
Resources for individuals diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease are available through the Parkinson’s Support Center of Kentuckiana (PSCKY). PCSKY is a grassroots organization, founded by Louisville-area people with Parkinson’s disease, dedicated to providing support services that improve the quality of life for the Parkinson's community; to promote public awareness; to contribute to the local and national efforts to raise funds for support; and to accelerate the research for a cure for Parkinson’s disease. To obtain information about numerous support groups for patients and caregivers, exercise classes and resources designed to help individuals with Parkinson’s disease “live well and fight back' against Parkinson’s” please see our website at www.pscky.org.