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What Do Dementia and Stroke Have in Common—if Anything?

When Robin’s Wish (the story of Robin Williams' suicide) showed up as one of the movies to consider buying on iTunes, I took a minute to read the synopsis. I thought that he had depression . . . and committed suicide. That was only part of the story. The movie was about his struggle with Lewy body dementia. Nobody knew about his diagnosis before the autopsy was performed. Interested, I watched Robin’s Wish . . . and cried.

Why the Movie is Important to Me

As a stroke survivor, I find the world of the brain fascinating. I also know that I am more likely to get dementia. That's just part of dealing with stroke. Thus, I was interested in what people had to say about Robin’s disease.

Walter J. Koroshetz, MD, Director [of] NIH’s National Institute of Neurological Diseases and Stroke announced the following:

“The thing to know about the brain is that it’s not static. The connections are always changing. We call it neuroplasticity. So, you have someone who has a stroke, part of the brain is damaged, it’s not coming back. Some of those patients get completely better because the brain rewires. It has this resilience. And the determinates of resilience we don’t quite understand, but high intellectual abilities to begin with seem to go along with that type of resilience.”

Now, I know that Dr. Koroshetz is speaking about strokes, and neuroplasticity is a great thing. You can exercise your brain every day and see improvements. Lewy body dementia is different. There is no getting better. Essentially it is a death sentence. Robin took his own life, but he was already being robbed of his life. He had Lewy body dementia in every part of his brain. I don’t know how he came to understand this, or if he did, but we need to be aware that Robin had one desire he had written down.

“I want to help people be less afraid.” ~ Robin Williams, July 31, 2012

What We Can Do About Getting Dementia?

An estimated 1.4 million have Lewy body dementia. Another 5.8 million have Alzheimer’s disease. I am more likely to get dementia because of my stroke. Is there anything I can do the prevent it?

I think the answer is yes. As noted in my book, I go to my doctor every four weeks for Low-Level Laser Light Therapy. He began the treatment several years ago to help my aphasia. He has extended the protocol to also give me the Alzheimer’s treatment. Does it work? I think so. I know that it helped me improve my ability to speak. So I am willing to make an investment in treating dementia.

I suggest watching Robin’s Wish. I found it sad, but also enlightening.

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