Commonly mistaken for Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s, Lewy Body Dementia is a very serious form of dementia that currently has no cure. It was discovered in the early 1900’s by Friederich H. Lewy while doing research on Parkinson’s disease. What he discovered is that in these patients abnormal proteins are deposited at the base of the brain stem, disrupting normal processes.
There are three main factors that display themselves with Lewy Body Dementia or LBD: very distinct and precise hallucinations that can be described in minute detail; large swings in the display of cognitive issues, alertness, and concentration; and manifestation of the gate and muscle stiffness associated with Parkinson’s.
1.4 million Americans afflicted with this disease and is commonly underdiagnosed, or misinterpreted as some other form of dementia, most commonly Parkinson’s. It is one of many forms of dementia, second only to Alzheimer’s as the most common cause.
LBD dementia symptoms are similar to other forms of dementia and include: impaired ability to learn new skills, difficulty with solving problems, confusion when trying to make decisions, memory impairment,
However there are some distinct differences which make LBD different. Symptoms with LBD can manifest any time of day, whereas people with Alzheimer’s tend to act out during the late afternoon, commonly referred to as “Sundowner’s Syndrome.” LBD patients, like Parkinson’s patients, tend to have more hallucination and stiff movements. However, one telltale distinction is in the timeframe of onset of symptoms. LBD tends to start showing cognitive impairment within a year or diagnosis, whereas Parkinson’s patients have symptoms much later. Sleep patterns are often disturbed in very distinctive ways in patients with LBD. For about two thirds of these people, they tend to speak and gesture during the REM sleep stage.
LBD is particularly difficult for family members to deal with as the symptoms can be highly unpredictable and come and go very erratically. Fogginess, aggressiveness, ambulation difficulties, and wild hallucinations can last seconds or days.
A proper diagnosis is essential in treating LBD patients. If an LBD patient is misdiagnosed and given anti-psychotics, commonly given to Alzheimer’s patients, this can cause very dangerous negative reactions: severe sweating, muscle stiffness, drastic changes in blood pressures, and high fever. Even though there is no cure, a proper diagnosis and medication routine can lead to a reduction of symptoms and a slowing of the progression of the disease. With the proper medications on board, a patient can be returned to a more manageable state as when the symptoms first began to appear.
Bring in non-medical home care certified and trained in dementia home care can also help families cope with the challenging behaviors displayed by patients with LBD.