Williams case brings attention to dementia - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Williams case brings attention to dementia

Mary and Marsha Vowels-Edwards Mary and Marsha Vowels-Edwards
Holly and her Grandma Wanda. She also knows first-hand what dementia is like. Holly and her Grandma Wanda. She also knows first-hand what dementia is like.

Multiple news sources including CBS report actor Robin Williams' suicide may be connected to "Lewy Body Dementia."

The reports all point to celebrity website TMZ, and a story it's running that claims the actor's family call the condition a "key factor" in Williams' decision to take his own life.

Lewy body dementia is a condition often associated with Parkinson's.

TMZ says Williams had been complaining about his medication and how it made him feel, which may be normal among patients.

According to the report, that kind of medication can give certain patients severe side effects like hallucinations.

Patients may think they're seeing, say, friends or relatives who've died, and they may even try to "talk" to these hallucinations.

This news comes as doctors say the number of dementia cases of all kinds is growing.

Doctors say Lewy body dementia can develop in your 40s or 50s, as can many other forms of cognitive disease that rob the mind.

However, we found out from families and experts, both before and after any type of dementia strikes, there is hope.

"I can remember the first time she was in Cape and she got lost," said Marsha Vowels-Edwards.

She recalls the first signs of her mother, Mary Vowels, developing dementia with periods of forgetfulness and confusion.

"It all came with excuses," said Marsha. "I just knew something was going wrong. We also lost my dad to Alzheimer's. She cared for him up until the end then she just kind of shut down."

Now, Mary is at Auburn Creek, an assisted living facility. Marsha feels it's easy to see as she laughs with her friends her mother is happy here.

"She's got three new best friends and they're like three young girls reliving their lives," said Marsha. "Coming here and seeing them laugh is the best part of my day."

Before, Marsha says her mother spent her time alone in depression. The hardest part: accepting her mother needed special care.

Reaching out for support made all the difference.

"That's what I want families to know it's hard and it's scary but my mom hasn't been this happy in years and it's added years to her life. There's so much hope," said Marsha. "She's in a safe place but she's in a place where she's loved."

"The laughter here is contagious," said Director of Nursing of Auburn Creek, Rhonda Gray.

She helps care for Mary and others at Auburn Creek. She says acceptance is the hardest part for families.

"You have to realize that they don't realize that it's not ok that they are becoming forgetful. Sometimes we just have to go with the flow and get in their world and adopt a new normal," Gray says.

She says they see progress by keeping patients busy with activities and social interaction.

"Mary is completely happy with who she is here she is the fact she doesn't remember what she did this morning," said Gray.

Gray tells me once they get support and care Mary and others bounce back more quickly from medical procedures and even improve their short term memories.

"It bothers us more than it bothers them," said Dr. Lori Moyers.

Moyers is familiar with the Vowels family and many others.

"Seeking help quickly is key. The sooner you're being treated the slower it progresses," she said.

You can be proactive before it sets in with lots of exercise for your body and a good diet, and don't forget to exercise your brain.

"Reading and crossword puzzles are great. The worst thing you can do is seclude yourself or sit in front of the TV alone."

For families, Marsh says while it's a scary horrible disease, you can find joy where you never expected it.

"We have found an extended family here and so has she," said Marsha. "With the right attitude there is hope. If she's happy I am happy. I am proud of my mom."

Diets like the Mediterranean are most recommended to be proactive.

Heartland News also spoke with Wendy Boren, a community educator on Alzheimer's.

She says when it comes to Lewy body there is no cure. Boren says it can start with shuffling feet and other issues like forgetting directions or how to do a certain dance.

Boren says it can lead to other forms or cognitive dementia later in life, but there's no way to say for sure if Lewy body was the reason.

Otherwise, Boren recommends for any family member you believe is suffering the first thing you should do is seek support. If they think they are seeing people or objects that aren't there, keep them calm, resist the urge to argue, and do your best to redirect the conversation.

For more information, Boren recommends this website: www.alz.org. You can also call the help line at 1-800-272-3900.

Boren can be contacted at wborenrn@gmail.com.

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