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Dementia Dialog: What Is Lewy Body Dementia?

Learn more about one of the most popular but least talked about forms of dementia and how memory comfort care can help manage symptoms

We often group together a variety of memory illnesses into the overarching term “dementia.” When talking about dementia, we may actually be referring to Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s disease, vascular dementia, or Huntington’s disease. Some forms of dementia have overlapping symptoms, like confusion and memory loss. Other forms of dementia have specific indications, like shaking, severe agitation, and the slow decline of physical functions.

One brain illness that is often lumped into this generic group of dementias is Dementia with Lewy Bodies (DLB). DLB, also called Lewy Body Dementia, is the second most common form of degenerative dementia and affects more than 1.4 million Americans and their families. The structure of the disease is where DLB gets its name – the Lewy bodies are smooth, round clumps of protein located in the nerve cells of the affected parts of the brain. This protein structure is often found in those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Down syndrome, and other brain disorders.

Lewy Body Dementia is unique from other forms of dementia. Those with the disease may experience the common symptoms of dementia, such as confusion, agitation, short and long-term memory loss. However, certain critical differences impact the way DLB is diagnosed and how symptoms are managed.

What Makes Lewy Body Dementia Different

DLB is a multi-system disease, meaning that it affects the cognition, movement, and emotions of the affected person. Lewy Body Dementia is most similar to Parkinson’s disease in terms of diagnosis, symptoms, and prognosis. For both diseases, there is no way to totally prevent or cure the escalation of symptoms. Eventually, both forms of dementia are terminal. However, identifying the many important differences between DLB and Parkinson’s can help improve symptom management and the affected person’s quality of life.

  1. Symptoms common to Parkinson’s including muscle rigidity, changes in speech and walking, and tremors are not always shared with DLB. People with Lewy Body Dementia may experience memory and/or cognitive problems and visual hallucinations. While dementia may decrease fine motor skills over time, DBL patients do not typically experience the severe physical debilitation faced by those with Parkinson’s.
  2. Even if they have Lewy bodies (those protein lumps in the brain), not all Parkinson’s patients will develop DLB. The clumps of protein called Lewy bodies are common with other conditions, like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. Patients with DLB present more neuropsychiatric symptoms, like visual hallucinations and behavioral problems, that distinguish the diseases.
  3. Lewy Body Dementia is not typically genetic. Like other forms of dementia, certain families may have a genetic mutation that increases their risk of DLB, but it is not normally considered to be a genetic disease like Huntington’s Disease. In contrast, about 10-15% of Parkinson’s disease cases are genetic.

Diagnosis & Symptom Management

Like other forms of dementia including Alzheimer’s disease, Lewy Body Dementia has no cure. Early diagnosis and symptom management are the best ways to provide comfort care and high-quality lives for those with DBL. Lewy Body Dementia is particularly hard to diagnose because it so closely resembles other dementias and overlaps with other disorders like Parkinson’s disease. Most officials cannot be made, so medical professionals may choose to treat DLB with Parkinson’s medication or Alzheimer’s symptom management techniques.

For the families of loved ones with advanced dementia, the progression of the disease can seem relentless. For seniors with Parkinson’s disease, physical and motor functions deteriorate first followed by memory and cognitive skills. The frustration of being mentally clear but unable to control one’s body movements can be incredibly frustrating for seniors. Watching a loved one struggle and deteriorate as dementia progresses is especially hard on family members and adult children who provide comfort care for a senior parent or another relative.

Keep an open dialog with your loved one’s medical team and any professional care staff. It is often important to track even the smallest changes in symptoms. Medications must be monitored closely for proper balance, as some seniors with advanced dementia have adverse reactions to certain drugs. Preventing injury through falls and other accidents should be a priority as well. Your independent loved one may not be thrilled about a companion caregiver, but ensuring their safety and well-being is your number one priority.

Finding Professional Memory Care

As your loved one’s advanced form of dementia progresses, it is likely they will require around the clock care. After a Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s diagnosis, often families are in shock. It is important to make plans for the future at this moment, when your loved one is still able to speak for themselves and voice their opinions about how they wish to spend their remaining years, including comfort care and palliative care options.

If you have questions about the residential memory care services provided by ComfortCare Homes in Wichita, KS, please contact our office today. Our unique approach to senior memory care and living assistance supports seniors with various types of advanced dementia. We’re happy to answer any questions you may have and to assist your family through the senior care research process.

References:
Dementia with Lewy Bodies”, National Center on Caregiving Family Caregiver Alliance
10 Things You Should Know About Lewy Body Dementia”, Lewy Body Dementia Association
Types of Dementia”, Alzheimer’s Association
Parkinson’s and Lewy Body Dementia: What’s the Difference?”, ParkinsonsDisease.net

For more information about memory care services provided by ComfortCare Homes, please call our office at (316) 444-0532.

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