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Widow Reveals Dementia, Not Depression, Triggered Robin Williams Suicide

He was one of the funniest people in a generation. On stage and on screen, Robin Williams’ unique brand of rapid-fire comedy entertained the world for four decades. So the death by suicide of this treasured comedian and actor in August 2014 shocked and saddened us all.

At the time, depression was blamed for Williams’ suicide. Now, though, in an ABC News and People magazine interview, Robin Williams’ widow reports that the comedian also suffered from a surprisingly common illness called Lewy body dementia. An article on the website of the New York Times reports that more than 1.3 million Americans are affected by this little understood and frequently misdiagnosed illness. (Click here to read the article.)

The Times article states that Lewy body dementia “is often mistaken for Alzheimer’s disease, or Parkinson’s disease” with “an Alzheimer’s-like slippage in memory and thinking, as well as stiffness and movement problems seen in Parkinson’s.” These similarities mean that “it often takes more than a year — and multiple visits to specialists — to get an accurate diagnosis.”

Someone who is relatively young, like Robin Williams who was 63 when he died, knows what it happening to him or her, which makes this form of dementia particularly devastating. It was likely this emotional distress combined with other afflictions, including dementia-induced depression, which triggered Williams’ suicide.

This tragic story shows how important it is that loved ones, caregivers and medical personnel pay particular attention to the emotional and physical state of those closest to them. It’s also another excellent reason why we strongly recommend to our retirement-age clients that they seek the care of a geriatrician – a medical specialist trained to observe and diagnose conditions particularly relevant to seniors. Having a geriatric specialist as part of your team means you’ll have the benefit of a trained specialist as you age. We can recommend a geriatric care practitioner in your area.

For more insight into health-related decisions that can help you enjoy a happier retirement, we invite you to attend one of our free LifePlanning seminars – click on the Upcoming Events tab on this website for dates, times and locations near you. Preserving your health in retirement will help you avoid unplanned institutional care and allow you to enjoy many more years of independence. Let us help you chart a course toward a healthier future.

(originally reported at


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