When superstar Robin Williams passed away last year, it was widely reported that the actor had claimed his own life, having lost his long battle with depression and substance abuse. Now, CNN reports, his wife has come forward to correct the record: it was actually dementia that is to blame.
Even family members and close friends, including famous colleagues Whoopi Goldberg and Billy Crystal, seemed to accept the initial reports at face value last fall. After all, the beloved actor had famously struggled with both mental health issues and drug use in the past, and the police reports seemed conclusive.
But now that the family has had time to confer with doctors, collect their thoughts, and fully investigate the matter, it has become clear that crippling, incurable mental decline was responsible for Williams’ struggle.
“My best friend was sinking,” she told CNN. But not from drugs or alcohol. Williams was completely sober at the time of his death, and had been for eight years. That much now appears to be indisputable. And while Mrs. Williams says that depression continued to play a small role in her husband’s life, it paled in comparison to his battle with dementia.
At first, doctors diagnosed Mr. Williams with Parkinson’s disease. They medicated him accordingly, but he seemed curiously vulnerable to the medications. As time went on, it became clear that his actual affliction was Lewy body dementia — an especially cruel and severe form of the disease.
Now, at long last, Robin’s family is able to set the record straight. They hope to raise awareness, too.
Experts believe that as many as 1.4 million Americans already have Lewy body dementia, though many don’t know it yet. The disease is relatively young, and scientists are only beginning to understand it.
Williams’ story is important because it illustrates the ease with which Lewy body dementia symptoms can be confused with those of other conditions, especially Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and even normal aging.
Dementia is a terrible diagnosis for anyone to receive, and unfortunately, it is still very difficult for any of us to predict whether we’ll be among those to get the bad news. We do know, though, that the numbers are rising — dementia cases have been increasing for several years now.
Experts say that the best things we can do are exercise, eat well, live active lifestyles, and plan now for the financial demands we might face in the future. That last task is something our office can help with — considerably. Give us a call today to learn more.