Can a Parkinson’s Dementia patient go from no symptoms to being completely dependent within 6 months?

My 86 yr old Mother had minor outpatient surgery on her hand 6 months ago. General anesthesia was used. She has had VERY SLIGHT, MINOR tremors for many, many years. Never diagnosed with Parkinsons.
Minor surgery, shouldn't be a problem. She is a very active, in good shape, runs rings around her 4 children, just never stops. Great seamstress, great cook. People mistook her for a 70 yr old all the time. What the heck did we know?? Apparently NOTHING! When she came home from the surgery she was different person. Nothing drastic, but just slightly different. We thought it was the anestesia not completely out of her system. We (I am 1 of 4 children, 3 girls live fairly close to my parents, my brother lives 1200 miles away) would call her on the phone to check on her and my Dad (he was diagnosed with Dementia 4 years ago) and to see how things were. All sounded pretty normal. Us 3 kids would stop in periodically for short viisits at various times checking up on them but we didn't stay for too long. An hour or two at a time. Things just didn't seem "normal" but I couldn't put my finger on it.
I decided to come for an entire day and spend the night to see what was going on. Within that month, she had gone from doing everything herself to not being able to do much of anything at all. She was overdosing my Dad on his meds, forgetting some of them completely. Just was so out of character for her, she was unable to care for him let alone herself. I then moved in with them for 5 - 6 days a week. My other 2 sisters take the other 2 days and come in for them. As stated, my Father was diagnosed with Dementia about 4 years ago, is on meds and he is doing fantasic. He does have problems, but for his age (86) and diagnosis, he is actually doing better than she is. My Mother is now at the point that she is forgetting just about everything. She is getting things mixed up, she is totally confused most of the time. She has caught a couple things on fire on the stove. Set off the fire alarm and didn't know what it was, and didn't smell the smoke from the fire! I am now doing most of the cooking, My sister has had to take over the bills. And the clencher tonight..... my brother had surgery today and she didn't even remember. She just looked at me when I told her that he was in recovery and all was good. She had nothing to say, like she didn't know what, or who, I was talking about. Just the blank stare. This is the lady that was fighting with me 2 weeks ago that "no matter what the doctor says, I am a good driver and I will drive if I want to!" Then she took the Drivers Evaluation AND PASSED IT!! And tonight she can't remember that her son had surgery today after I told her 6 hours earlier that he had just gone into surgery. One minute we are together in one room, then she goes into another and forgets that we were just together in another one. Not just talking and not remembering, but now we are in physical contact with each other and she turns around and doesn't remember it. She tells me we are having for dinner and goes to the refrigerator and either forgets what she went for or pulls out something totally different. It's just like that all day. Between her and my Dad I do nothing but follow them around all day.
What I am wondering,.... Since my mother's story of what may have happened to her, Parkinsons Dementia onset from surgery, has anyone ever heard of such a QUICK decline in mental functions and capabiities? "Normal" to 24/7 care in 6 months???

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Who (what kind of doctor) did the diagnosing? Is she on any medications?

Unfortunately, anesthesia can apparently trigger dementia that hasn't shown up yet.

Parkinson's is characterized by protein deposits in the brain. Parkinson's with Dementia is pretty much the same as Dementia with Lewy Bodies. What it is called depends on which symptoms show up first. Together these 2 variations are called Lewy Body Dementia (LBD). It is a hallmark of LBD, and one of the things that distinguishs it from other forms of dementia, that cognitive ability can fluctuate from day to day and even within a day. It is truly a roller coaster ride! So it is believeable that Mom has fits of blank stares sometimes, and other times she can pass the driving exam. That is very typical of LBD.

That is not a "typical" or "average" rate of decline, but it is not unheard of, either.

Could she possibly have something else going on with her health? A uti can make even unimpaired elders seem to have dementia. When my husband has ANY kind of health problem, such as a cold or constipation, all of his cognitive symptoms get worse.

Hubby (now age 85) was diagnosed with LBD a little more than 8 years ago. His first year was very severe, but it improved and stabilized at fairly mild symptoms (except when he is sick.) He takes several drugs for the dementia symptoms.

I think it is essential that your mother be treated and followed by someone very familiar with Lewy Body Dementia. It can make a huge difference.

And I also think it will help you enormously to learn more about the characteristics of this disease. It is the second most common kind of progressive dementia (after AD) but it is not as widely known, even within the medical profession. An excellent resource for learning is the LBDA website.

This is a very difficult journey you and your sister are on with your parents. I wish you every success with it.


jeannegibbs, Thank you for your response. She was originally given the diagnosis from her, and my Fathers neurologist. Parkinsons and he "thought" that she may have Dementia. Her MRI didn't show much in the way of dementia, but with all that was discribed to him that day, he stated it sounded like Parkinsons Dementia. After she took the drivers test and passed they are sending her results to another neurologist, for a 2nd opinion. Hoping we can see what is going on. I had worked in a number of nursing homes in my earlier years and I have seen A LOT of cases of dementia and AD. She is just not falling into the "normal" rate of decline. And yes we know that anesthesia can cause dementia, or the increase of symptoms. We were told a few years ago that my father couldn't have surgery for his bone on bone knee because of his dementia, as it would probably make his symptoms of D much worse. At the time, we had no idea that my mother had PD. And none of her doctors warned us that this could happen. Only after the fact did we find out if you have PD and you undergo surgery with general anesthesia, it is a very good chance, especially in older people, that you will fall into this horrible disease. We are just shocked to see the rate of decline that is happening everyday. We are just dumbfounded and amazed. Thank you for your time. I so appreciate your time.
LBD is a horrible disease, as are all dementias. One glimmer of hope is that LBD often responds better to drug treatments than AD, for example. But you really have to work with a doctor who knows what he or she is doing and doesn't just think that all dementias are the same.

A book you might find of use is Living with Lewy's, by Throop and Throop.

The lack of evidence on an MRI may indicate that the dementia is more likely LBD than AD or vascular dementia.

The rate of decline may be real. Rates do vary considerably. But it might also be caused by something reversible. The first time I noticed alarming symtoms in my husband was at a restaurant. He couldn't seem to comprehend the menu. We discussed some choices and each picked something out. When the waitress came he ordered something different (kind of like your mother announcing what is for dinner and then getting something else out) and it was something he does not even like! When the food came he didn't know what the salt and pepper shakers were, how to pour syrup, and even how to put a tea bag in the little hot water pot. It was incredible! When we left he staggered to the car as if he were drunk. And this was his FIRST DAY! It was June, and by Oct he was in a wheel chair. That was 8 years ago. He has no trouble ordering from a menu today, and he even bowls once a week with a senior league. I don't mean to give you false hope. Maybe your mother really is declining permanently. But I think it is worthwhile to find a doctor who is willing and able to treat this kind of dementia. Even if she doesn't have remarkable improvement, even small improvements can make a big difference in the quality of her remaining life.

Keep us informed of how this goes for you. We care, and others can learn from your experiences.
Has she been checked for an infection? An infection such as UTI can set off dementia and it is reversible most of the time.

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