People often incorrectly use the terms Alzheimer’s and dementia interchangeably. In fact, Alzheimer’s is just one type of dementia. While Alzheimer’s accounts for the majority of dementia diagnoses, there are others. One of these is Lewy body dementia (LBD).

According to the Lewy Body Dementia Association, nearly 1.4 million people in this country live with LBD. Until the death of the popular comedian and actor Robin Williams from depression related to LBD, probably few people had ever heard of it.

Let’s first explore what LBD is and then discuss how it impacts people’s lives.

What Is Lewy Body Dementia?

Lewy body dementia is an umbrella term that includes both Parkinson’s dementia and dementia with Lewy bodies. It is named for Dr. Friedrich Lewy, a neurologist who is credited with discovering the disease while conducting research on Parkinson’s.

The progressive brain disorder causes abnormal protein deposits to build up in the brain. The result is damage to parts of the brain responsible for thought, movement, behavior, memory, and sleep. Some bodily functions, such as bowel and bladder control and blood pressure, are also impacted.

Common Symptoms of Lewy Body Dementia

The symptoms of LBD are sometimes attributed to stress or aging. Because physicians aren’t always familiar with LBD, people in the early stages may be misdiagnosed. Some of the most common symptoms of LBD include:

  • Tremors
  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Forgetfulness
  • Problems with abstract thought
  • Sluggishness
  • Decreased attention span
  • Muscle stiffness
  • Difficulty with coordination
  • Sleep issues

Coping with a Diagnosis of Lewy Body Dementia

As is true of many forms of dementia, there is no current cure for LBD. This means health care professionals must rely on palliative forms of treatment to address and manage symptoms of the disease. These treatments include:

  • Utilizing a variety of therapies: A plan of care that incorporates physical, occupational, and speech therapy may teach the senior ways to work around mobility challenges, problems with language skills, and other losses.
  • Consulting a sleep specialist: Some LBD-related sleep issues may be treated with the intervention of a specialist. They may order a sleep study that allows them to create a treatment plan to help an adult with LBD to finally get a good night’s rest.
  • Seeking pharmacological interventions: If an older adult is experiencing delusions or hallucinations, their quality of life can be significantly decreased. For some people, a pharmacological solution may aid in preventing or managing both.

As with people with other forms of dementia, it can be difficult to care for a loved one with LBD at home. If you are struggling to safely care for a family member with LBD, a memory care community might be the optimum solution. Dementia care teams at these communities are experts at helping residents live their best quality of life despite the disease.

An experienced Senior Care Advisor can help you explore your local options and find one that best meets your needs. Call 800-304-8061 to speak to an advisor for free!

Photo by Sven Mieke on Unsplash