Robin Williams’ wife says form of dementia contributed to his death

In interviews with People magazine and ABC News, Robin Williams’ wife said her husband suffered from Lewy body dementia or Dementia with Lewy Bodies (DLB), a factor that she believes contributed to his death.

“Lewy body dementia killed Robin,” Susan Williams told ABC News, “it’s what took his life.”

Lewy body dementia can occur by itself or together with Alzheimer’s disease or Parkinson’s. It accounts for five to 15 per cent of all dementias, according to Alzheimer Society of Canada.

Susan Williams told People, speaking to the public perception of what drove Robin to commit suicide, “it was not depression that killed Robin.”

“Depression was, one of let’s call it, 50 symptoms and it was a small one.”

WATCH ABOVE: Williams’ widow tells ABC News ‘Lewy body dementia killed Robin’

READ MORE: Living with Lewy body dementia   

Susan said his medical afflictions would have claimed his life within three years – “hard years” – and that she doesn’t blame him for his suicide. Susan said her husband had not only been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, a progressive movement disorder, a few months before his death, but also that a coroner’s report found signs of Lewy body dementia, a difficult-to-diagnose condition that leads to a decline in thinking and reasoning abilities.

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She also said Lewy body dementia and DLB, “present themselves like a pinball machine. You don’t know exactly what you’re looking at.”

Susan said the coroner’s report leads her to believe that Lewy body dementia contributed to Robin’s decision to commit suicide.

The beloved actor and comedian took his own life in 2014.

READ MORE: Michael J. Fox ‘stunned’ to learn Robin Williams had Parkinson’s

According to Alzheimer Society of Canada:

Lewy body dementia

Lewy body dementia is a form of dementia that occurs because of abnormal deposits of a protein called alpha-synuclein inside the brain’s nerve cells. These deposits are called “Lewy bodies,” after the scientist who first described them. The deposits interrupt the brain’s messages. Lewy body dementia usually affects the areas of the brain that involve thinking and movement. Why or how Lewy bodies form is unknown.

How does Lewy body dementia affect the person?

A person with Lewy body dementia may have symptoms much like those of both Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease. A progressive loss of memory, language, reasoning and other higher mental functions, such as calculating numbers, is common. He or she may have difficulty with short-term memory, finding the right word and keeping a train of thought. The person may also experience depression and anxiety. Obvious changes in alertness may also happen. He or she may be sleepy during the day, but wide awake at night, unable to sleep. Sometimes, the person will appear apathetic.

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Lewy body dementia usually progresses quickly. Problems with memory may not be an early symptom, but can come up as Lewy body dementia progresses. Visual hallucinations  are common and can be worse during times of increased confusion. The visual hallucinations often come back again and again, and typically are of people, children or animals.

People with the disease may also make errors in perception, for example, seeing faces in a carpet pattern.

Some features of Lewy body dementia can resemble those in Parkinson’s disease. These include rigidity (stiffness of muscles), tremors (shaking), stooped posture, and slow, shuffling movements. Sensitivity to medication, especially some sedatives, may make these symptoms worse.

Other names for Lewy body dementia include:

  • Diffuse Lewy body disease
  • Cortical Lewy body disease
  • Lewy body disease
  • Senile Dementia of Lewy Type
  • Dementia with Lewy bodies
  • Lewy body variant of Alzheimer’s disease


With files from AP

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