Most people have heard of or are familiar with Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease and the resulting cognitive impairment and memory loss. Lewy Body Dementia is the second most common type of progressive thinking impairment after Alzheimer’s. Until recently, only the families affected by LBD and other health professionals have known about this form of dementia. Now, with more education, LBD is becoming better understood and hopefully more research and support will follow.
About one and a half million Americans have been diagnosed with LBD. However, as Baby Boomers age, the number of Americans diagnosed with dementia is expected to increase annually. As this aging takes place LBD will undoubtedly become more prevalent. As with any illness or disease, knowledge is power. Early detection, diagnosis and then treatment and care are very important to those with the disease.
The Lewy Body Dementia Association offers the following information in order to aid in the education of family member’s whose loved ones suffer from various forms of dementia.
Alzheimer’s disease symptoms include a progressive loss of recent memory; problems with language, calculation, abstract thinking, and judgment; depression or anxiety; personality and behavioral changes; and disorientation to time and place.
Lewy body dementia (LBD) is an umbrella term for a form of dementia that has three common presentations.
- Some individuals will start out with a memory or cognitive disorder that may resemble Alzheimer’s disease, but over time two or more distinctive features become apparent leading to the diagnosis of ‘dementia with Lewy bodies’ (DLB). Symptoms that differentiate it from Alzheimer’s include unpredictable levels of cognitive ability, attention or alertness, changes in walking or movement, visual hallucinations, a sleep disorder called REM sleep behavior disorder, in which people physically act out their dreams, and severe sensitivity to medications for hallucinations. In some cases, the sleep disorder can precede the dementia and other symptoms of LBD by decades.
- Others will start out with a movement disorder leading to the diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease and later develop dementia and other symptoms common in DLB.
- Lastly, a small group will first present with neuropsychiatric symptoms, which can include hallucinations, behavioral problems, and difficulty with complex mental activities, leading to an initial diagnosis of DLB.
Regardless of the initial symptom, over time all three presentations of LBD will develop very similar cognitive, physical, sleep and behavioral features, all caused by the presence of Lewy bodies throughout the brain.
The risk factors for developing LBD include; age (most diagnosed are between the ages of 50 and 85), having a family member with LBD and an overall unhealthy lifestyle. The disease is most common in men.
Fortunately the LBD symptoms are treatable with medication, although there is no cure for the disease itself. As with other dementia related illnesses, structure, patience, and caring are keys to helping the person with degenerative cognitive disease. Support groups and hiring a home care agency to provide respite are crucial to maintain the primary caregiver’s health and well being. For additional resources and information on Lew Body Dementia click here.
If you’re the primary caregiver for a loved one with LBD or any other illness and you’re interested in more information about respite care services from Bayshore Home Care call (800)335-2150. Bayshore Home Care employs a full staff of qualified caregivers that are able to give your loved one personalized care and attention from one to twenty four hours a day.
Information provided in part by: The Lew Body Dementia Association, nd, http://www.lbda.org