Parkinson's Disease and Dementia

Parkinson’s disease (PD) is known for its associated movement (or motor) symptoms, such as tremor and slowed movement. People can be surprised to learn that cognitive changes are among common PD non-motor symptoms. 

About half of people with Parkinson’s will be affected by mild cognitive impairment: changes in memory and thinking that are noticeable, but not enough to affect daily activities. 

As Parkinson’s progresses, people living with the disease can develop more significant or severe memory and thinking problems. Dementia means that a person has permanent cognitive changes that are significant enough to impact daily living. The combination of motor and cognitive impairments can limit a person with Parkinson’s ability to participate in social settings and perform basic activities. 

Dementia can also seriously impact care partners. Significant cognitive decline in a person with Parkinson’s is associated with care partner stress. To best care for those living with the disease, care partners of people with Parkinson’s-related dementia must also prioritize self-care.

Issues and Parkinson’s symptoms associated with mood, sleep, medications or other medical problems can all look like dementia. Because many other factors can impact cognitive skills in PD, an accurate diagnosis is essential.

Page reviewed by Dr. Jori Fleisher, MSCE, Assistant Professor, Department of Neurological Sciences at Rush University Medical Center, a Parkinson’s Foundation Center of Excellence.


For more insights on this topic, listen to our podcast episode “What is Lewy Body Dementia and How Does it Relate to Parkinson’s?”

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