Faith Hill Opens Up About Losing Her Father to Lewy Body Dementia

Curated by Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / ishonest

“It was a long passing,” Hill said of losing her father Ted Perry to the common form of progressive dementia. “It’s difficult to lose parents just a couple of years apart and watch them pass right in front of you,” said Hill, 54, who also lost her mother Edna back in 2016. “My dad had Lewy body dementia and it was difficult to watch a man you know be someone that you don’t recognize.”

Another struggle that has helped make the pair’s relationship stronger has been McGraw’s issues with alcohol. “Those demons always come back,” said McGraw, who quit drinking 13 years ago with Hill’s support. “But you always have a partner that’s willing to fight them with you. We made a commitment to each other a long time ago that we’re not going to give up. It’s too easy to give up,” he said. Hill echoed that sense of mutual commitment to help each other get through the tough times in life. “When you love someone, you commit to be there for them for the highs, the lows, anytime,” she added. “You face the struggles.”

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Lewy body dementia (LBD) is the second most common type of progressive dementia following Alzheimer’s disease, according to the Mayo Clinic. The disease is linked to abnormal deposits of a certain kind of protein in the brain, called Lewy bodies. Those deposits form in nerve cells within brain regions heavily involved in thought, memory, mood, movement, and behavior, the Mayo Clinic explains, causing a progressive loss of mental and physical capacities.

Symptoms of LBD include visual hallucinations (one of the earlier signs of the disease), movement issues (like rigid muscles and tremors), worsening regulation of body functions controlled by the autonomic nervous system (like blood pressure, pulse, sweating, and digestion), cognitive issues (like confusion and memory loss), sleep problems, attention issues (like episodes of drowsiness or staring into space), depression, and a loss of motivation. While there are a variety of medications that can help reduce certain symptoms of the disease, there is no cure, and people die from LBD an average of seven or eight years after their symptoms first emerge, the Mayo Clinic says.

LBD can be extremely taxing on loved ones and caretakers due to the profound decline in patients and the drawn-out, progressive nature of the disease (meaning it gets worse over time). Taking care of someone with LBD can be physically and emotionally draining, causing a wide range of emotions, like anger, guilt, frustration, social isolation, and grief, the Mayo Clinic explains. And alterations in the individual’s personality, capacity to communicate, behavior, and memory can make it feel like they are becoming less and less recognizable as themselves, as Hill touched on.

Read more on: faith, body, dementia

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