Robin Williamss Widow Points To Dementia As A Suicide Cause
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For the first time in more than a year, the widow of the actor Robin Williams is speaking publicly about the circumstances that preceded Mr. Williamss death, and sharing details about a disease he had when he died.
In interviews with People magazine and with ABC News, the widow, Susan Schneider Williams, laid the blame for her husbands suicide in 2014 not on depression but on diffuse Lewy body dementia.
It was not depression that killed Robin, Mrs. Williams said in the People magazine interview. Depression was one of lets call it 50 symptoms and it was a small one.
She added: This was a very unique case and I pray to God that it will shed some light on Lewy bodies for the millions of people and their loved ones who are suffering with it. Because we didnt know. He didnt know.
Parts of an interview with Mrs. Williams were shown Tuesday on ABCs Good Morning America, with further segments scheduled for that evening on the networks World News Tonight and Nightline programs, and Friday on its morning talk show The View.
Mr. Williams, the stand-up comic and star of Mork & Mindy, Good Morning, Vietnam, Good Will Hunting and Dead Poets Society, killed himself on Aug. 11, 2014, in the home he shared with Mrs. Williams in Tiburon, Calif. He was 63.
A statement issued that day by his press representatives said the actor had been battling severe depression of late.
What Problems Do They Cause
The thing about dementia with Lewy Bodies is that its not at all restrained when it comes to causing debilitating symptoms. The Lewy Bodies occur in regions throughout the brain, all of which provide important, often crucial functions for everyday life. The presence of Lewy Bodies mean multiple problems occur in conjunction, but for a diagnosis of probable dementia with Lewy Bodies, two of the following three symptoms must be evident
- Fluctuating cognition with pronounced variations in attention and alertness
- Recurrent visual hallucinations that are typically well formed and detailed
- Spontaneous motor features of Parkinsonism
We say probable dementia with Lewy Bodies because at present it can only be confirmed with a post-mortem. But there are numerous features that back up a diagnosis of dementia with Lewy Bodies if added to the three core symptoms above, and these include sleep disruption, repeated falls, non-visual hallucinations, loss of consciousness, delusions and, back where we started, depression.
Taken all together, a severe case of dementia with Lewy Bodies means you potentially cant think, cant sleep, cant stay awake, cant trust what you see, cant move, cant understand whats going and cant be happy. Judging by her Susan Williams comments about the speed of progression of his symptoms, it sounds like Robin Williams had a severe case of dementia with Lewy Bodies.
Robin Williams And Missed Signs Of Lewy Body Dementia
Robin Williams was a brilliant entertainer, bringing joy and wonderment to millions of people over the past 40 years. It is always tragic when someone takes his or her own life, but if there is anything good that can be taken from such a sad event, it is to raise the publics awareness of Lewy Body Dementia the most common disease that you may never have heard of before.
In recent years, Mr. Williams had been diagnosed with Parkinsons disease and began to take medications to treat his motor symptoms in addition to medication to treat his long-standing depression. Although we will never fully understand the reasons, when Mr. Williams committed suicide, it sparked a national debate about the potential contributions of depression and Parkinsons disease, as well as the medications used to treat these conditions, to his suicide.
The discussion broadened with the recent release of Mr. Williams autopsy findings. While the headlines initially reported the absence of illicit drugs or alcohol, more importantly the pathologist noted the findings of diffuse Lewy bodies in Mr. Williams brain, supporting the diagnosis of Lewy Body Dementia, the second most common cause of dementia after Alzheimers disease.
The Lewy Body Dementia Association estimates that 1.3 million Americans are affected by LBD. Symptoms of LBD include:
A Strange And Shocking Illness
Lewy bodies were first described in the early 20th century by Dr Friedrich Lewy, who was studying the brains of people with Parkinsons disease, a condition recognised by a combination of a shaking tremor, slowness of limb movements, and a shuffling walk.
Lewy bodies are, in fact, microscopic clumps of a protein called alpha-synuclein which may, under certain and as yet not understood circumstances, accumulate within nerve cells in the brain. When some critical brainstem and midbrain structures including the substantia nigra are involved, there is a loss of the neurotransmitter dopamine and Parkinsons disease is the result.
But in the last 20 years or so, we have realised that Lewy body disease can also affect other parts of the brain, producing symptoms other than those of Parkinsons. It occurs in the autonomic and peripheral nervous system producing vegetative symptoms such as low blood pressure, constipation and sweating.
Why Test For Lbd When There Is No Cure Yet
One may ask why anyone would want to take the test for LBD when there is no cure yet for LBD? Well, this question is a significant one to address. Consider the following:
While cures for LBD are still under development, there are effective treatments available that may lessen the symptoms at the early stages of the disease.
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Robins Wish Raising Awareness Of Lewy Body Dementia
The recent launch of the film Robins Wish tells the moving story of the actor Robin Williams, who sadly died in 2014 and was later revealed to have had a diagnosis of Lewy body dementia.
As a fan of his work for many years I was personally shocked and saddened to hear of his death at such a young age . Although his diagnosis was initially kept secret, it is good to see this film finally provides an honest and vivid account of how Lewy body dementia affected this brilliant, funny and talented actor. It also raises much needed awareness of this complex and challenging condition, thought to account for 10-15% of dementias. The film includes detailed accounts by Robins wife and friends who saw him struggle with changes caused by Lewy body dementia, which tragically remained undiagnosed until after his untimely death.
What Are Lewy Bodies
The most obvious question when encountering dementia with Lewy Bodies is, what are Lewy Bodies? What do they do? Why are they important? What damage do they cause?
Put simply, Lewy Bodies are lumps, known as aggregates, of misshapen protein that occur in nerve cells of people with certain conditions, most often Parkinsons disease, and but also dementia with Lewy Bodies. Cells as complex and important as neurons produce a bewildering array of proteins, to aid in the necessary functions and form the delicate cytoskeletal structure in place to maintain everything.
Sometimes, certain proteins are formed wrongly, and rather than integrating seamlessly into the cell they form big clumps. Exactly why this happens is currently unknown, but the fact that it occurs in cells throughout the brain suggests some sort of underlying genetic effect.
Whatever the initial cause, these protein aggregates build up in neurons, and are believed to clog and disrupt the vital processes taking place within, damaging the cell and eventually causing it to die. Similar processes are believed to take place in other neurodegenerative disorders, like tau tangles in Alzheimers disease, and inclusion bodies in Huntingtons disease.
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In Closing Demystifying Robin Williams Fight With Lewy Body Dementia
Please, dont worry so much. Because in the end, none of us have very long on this earth. Life is fleeting. And if youre ever distressed, cast your eyes to the summer sky. Robin Williams
While Robin Williams is no longer with us, his legacy and how he made many feel will continue to live on.
With this article, we hope you are better informed about Lewy Body Dementia and other types of mixed brain disease. You can also learn more about other misfolded proteins, such as Abeta and Tau, and how they play a role in neurodegenerative diseases.
To help raise awareness for early detection for LBD, we offer brain health awareness quizzes on our website. We are here to provide you with the help and support you need to fight for brain health together.
Transforming Mental Cognitive And Physical Health
The symptoms may first hinder a persons ability to work, Taylor said. Then they can disrupt their ability to drive manage their affairs and health be socially active dress themselves and shower. A person might also become unable to control involuntary behaviors, Galvin said, resulting in constipation, drooling, low blood pressure or the inability to control urine or bowel movements.
A persons inability to visually perceive the spatial relationships of objects can lead to car accidents or injuries. People with LBD can experience anxiety, depression and REM sleep disorder in which people lose the muscle paralysis that normally occurs during deep stages of sleep and physically act out their dreams. Once a person is finally diagnosed, the life expectancy is about four to five years, Vox said.
Theyre losing the essence of who they are slowly over time, Taylor said. Thats a journey that is a very difficult one.
Research to improve diagnoses and treatments is underway, but there are currently no treatments for Lewy body dementia specifically. Most patients are treated with medications for Alzheimers or Parkinsons disease, since the symptoms of LBD are similar. However, treating the various symptoms of LBD with medications not fine-tuned for the condition can be a real art and quickly fill up a patients medicine cabinet, Vox said.
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Robin Williams Depression And Dementia: The Clinical Picture
Robin Williams widow Susan has revealed the beloved actor was struggling with dementia with Lewy Bodies. This may help to explain his tragic actions, as despite being relatively unfamiliar, it is a deeply serious and unpleasant condition
Nearly a year and half ago, I wrote a piece about suicide and depression in the wake of Robin Williams death. You may have read it. A lot of people did. I didnt expect to have revisit this subject again, and yet here we are. But for good reason.
The original piece, and the unpleasant comments from numerous people that first inspired it, stemmed from the widespread assumption that Robin Williams ended his life due to struggles with depression, a condition he was known to have dealt with often.
However, a recent interview with his widow, Susan Williams, reveals that the beloved actor was actually struggling with dementia with Lewy Bodies, sometimes known as Lewy Body dementia. While making the loss of such a beloved individual no less tragic, this does throw a different light on matters.
Dementia with Lewy Bodies is not as common or well known as depression, or the more familiar forms of dementia, most obviously Alzheimers disease. However, even among the grim spectrum of neurological disorders and mental illnesses, dementia with Lewy Bodies is a particularly nasty condition. Heres why.
Lewy Body Dementia And The Tragic Death Of A Comedy Legend
“One of the doctors said, ‘Robin was very aware that he was losing his mind and there was nothing he could do about it.’ This was a very unique case and I pray to God that it will shed some light on Lewy bodies for the millions of people and their loved ones who are suffering with it, we didn’t know. He didn’t know. – Susan Williams, in People magazine
We all knew Robin Williams. From Mork and Mindy to the Dead Poet’s Society and Mrs. Doubtfire, he was both a great dramatic and comedic actor who also invaded our lives with frenetic late night television interviews. He died in an unexpected and sad way. And only then did we find that he suffered from Lewy Body dementia . After many months, his widow Susan Williams broke her silence to explain how his disease affected both their lives.
Family and friends share the suffering experienced by a patient with dementia. It is difficult to watch as a loved one’s mental function slowly, and sometimes rapidly, fails. The person who played catch, attended school plays, and walked down the aisle is replaced by a stranger whose words and actions can be frightening and painful. The body may look the same, but the person inside has changed. And while the patient may not appreciate what changes the dementia has wrought, those who watch the disease progress are left to be long suffering.
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How Lewy Body Dementia Gripped Robin Williams
Hit by a vicious case, the actor said he wanted to reboot his brain
In the months before his death, Robin Williams was besieged by paranoia and so confused he couldnt remember his lines while filming a movie, as his brain was ambushed by what doctors later identified as an unusually severe case of Lewy body dementia.
Robin was losing his mind and he was aware of it. Can you imagine the pain he felt as he experienced himself disintegrating? the actors widow, Susan Schneider Williams, wrote in a wrenching editorial published this week in the journal Neurology.
The title of her piece: The terrorist inside my husbands brain.
Susan Williams addressed the editorial to neurologists, writing that she hoped husbands story would help you understand your patients along with their spouses and caregivers a little more.
Susan Williams has previously blamed Lewy body dementia for her husbands death by suicide in 2014. About 1.3 million Americans have the disease, which is caused by protein deposits in the brain. Williams was diagnosed with Parkinsons disease a few months before he died the telltale signs of Lewy body dementia in his brain were not discovered until an autopsy.
The editorial chronicles Williamss desperation as he sought to understand a bewildering array of symptoms that started with insomnia, constipation, and an impaired sense of smell and soon spiraled into extreme anxiety, tremors, and difficulty reasoning.
She added: Do not give up.
Getting A Lewy Body Dementia Diagnosis
We recommend families seek advice from healthcare professionals such as their GP if they are concerned about a possible diagnosis. A referral should then be made to a specialist service such as dementia/memory service for cognitive or psychological symptoms. If motor symptoms are a significant concern, advice from a neurologist may be sought.
Due to the complex and distressing nature of symptoms, treatment requires close monitoring along with specialist advice and family support, such as that provided by Admiral Nurses. Admiral Nurses as dementia specialist nurses, can offer crucial support for families affected by Lewy body dementia.
Dementia UK works in partnership with the Lewy Body Society and has recently developed a dedicated Consultant Admiral Nurse post for Lewy body dementia. The Lewy Body Society, whose mission is to fund research into Lewy body dementia and to raise awareness of the disease, is funding the post and makes referrals to the Admiral Nurse Dementia Helpline.
The film clearly shows the love and admiration Robins family and friends had for him and the challenges they faced in coming to terms with the reality of Lewy body dementia. We hope that others with the same experiences will receive the support they need and deserve.
We still have a lot more work to do but we hope the film will help to highlight the need for increased investment in research and better services for all those affected.
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The Mystery Behind Robin Williams Fight Against Lewy Body Dementia
Robin Williams graced our screens in movies that we loved, including Dead Poets Society, Jack, Aladdin, and many more. The man that brought us many laughs and heartfelt moments left a void in the world when he committed suicide in 2014.
But, what seemed like a confusing way to die was just the tip of the iceberg. In this article, well demystify Robin Williams death and his battle with Lewy Body Dementia. We seek to do what the documentary, Robins Wish, aims to do. That is to enlighten what went on in the screen legends struggle with Lewy Body Dementiaa neurogenerative disease.
A Hard Illness To Diagnose
Subtle early problems can include loss of smell, acting out dreams, dizziness when standing up, constipation and anxiety. In a 2016 article about Robin Williams experience titled The Terrorist Inside My Husbands Brain, his widow Susan Schneider Williams highlighted gastrointestinal issues and anxiety as early unexplained changes.
Early memory and thinking problems in Lewy body dementia can also be subtle. They include new trouble concentrating, difficulty multitasking or challenges with visual skills. Fluctuations are characteristic of Lewy body dementia. This means that sometimes, people living with the illness have minimal thinking problems. At other times, they can be very confused. These ups and downs can make it hard to figure out what is wrong.
Hallucinations, paranoia and delusions are also symptoms. These are particularly troubling for the people experiencing them and for families. Hallucinations are when people experience something thats not really there, often seeing people or animals that arent actually present. Delusions are when a person believes something false but cannot be convinced of the truth.
Examples include incorrectly thinking that there is a stranger in the house, or that a spouse is having an affair. Robins Wish details how Robin Williams was worried that something had happened to his friend in the middle of the night, and it was hard to convince him otherwise.
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