As seniors get older, the changes in their memory, mood, and personalities can be drastic and raise concerns that they may be developing dementia.
Dementia isn’t a specific disease, but rather a broad term encompassing many types of diseases that interfere with daily functioning. Dementia can cause memory loss, muscle rigidity, difficulty swallowing, hallucinations, and anxiety.
Lewy Body Dementia (LBD) is a specific type of dementia that shares many symptoms with other diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.
Because of the overlap in symptoms, it can be hard to properly diagnose Lewy Body Dementia in your loved one.
In this article, we’ll provide educational information on the different types of dementia, to help families and caregivers recognize the symptoms of LBD early on and help their loved ones get treatment.
How Does Lewy Body Dementia Affect the Body and Brain?
Lewy Body Dementia (LBD) is one of the most common types of dementia after Alzheimer’s disease. Like Alzheimer’s disease, the brain is affected by the clumping of protein deposits, called Lewy bodies, in the brain.
When Lewy bodies accumulate in the nerve cells of the brain, it can affect a persons’ ability to think, remember, and move their body. Lewy bodies can also be found in people with Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease dementia.
Similar to plaques and tangles, the protein buildups in the brain often seen in Alzheimer’s patients, Lewy bodies are microscopic proteins that build up to disrupt brain cell communication.
People who have Lewy bodies can either develop dementia with Lewy bodies or Parkinson’s disease dementia.
Currently, there is no cure for LBD, however, there are prescriptions that can ease the symptoms of the disease.
The Early Signs of Lewy Body Dementia
LBD typically affects people 50 and older. At first, symptoms may appear to be mild, often not being noticeable for some time.
However, as the disease progresses, the following symptoms are often indicators of LBD:
- Decreased sense of smell
- Visual hallucinations
- Memory loss
- Muscle stiffness and rigidity
- Trouble focusing
- Loss of balance
- Trouble recognizing objects
- Sleep problems
- Drastic changes in personality
How is Lewy Body Dementia Diagnosed?
Diagnosing LBD can be difficult for doctors, as the symptoms are very similar to other types of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Because of this, there is no one test that successfully diagnoses LBD.
In many cases, LBD can only be confirmed through a brain autopsy after a confirmed suspected diagnosis.
However, new biomarkers and diagnostic tools are helping doctors diagnose LBD earlier by examining a patients’ blood, cerebrospinal fluid, and genetic testing.
In order to get tested for LBD, a patient should go to their primary physician, and will most likely need to get referred to a specialist like a geriatric psychiatrist, neuropsychologist, or geriatrician.
How is Lewy Body Dementia Different from Alzheimer’s?
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia, and LBD is the second most common. Because of the overlap in symptoms, it can be difficult to diagnose one or the other initially.
Both diseases are caused by sticky protein buildups in the brain. However, with Alzheimer’s disease, these protein build ups cause amyloid plaques, caused by the amyloid protein, and neurofibrillary tangles caused by the tau protein.
When these proteins accumulate, they interfere with the brain and body’s sense of communication, affecting cognition, movement, and behavior.
One of the key differences between the two diseases is hallucinations.
Hallucinations are common early on in people with LBD, but take a long time to develop for people with Alzheimer’s disease.
The other key indicators somebody has LBD rather than Alzheimer’s is developing Parkinson’s-like tremors and muscle rigidity, and difficulty sleeping.
How Family Members and Caregivers Can Support Their Loved Ones with Lewy Body Dementia
Because LBD is hard to diagnose and similar to other types of dementia, it can be hard for caregivers to get enough information to help their loved ones with the disease. This is why it’s important to find a medical professional who is experienced with LBD specifically.
For example, people with LBD are especially sensitive to anti-anxiety medications. It’s important for caregivers to know this because anti-anxiety medications can worsen anxiety in people living with LBD.
Managing hallucinations and delusions is often said to be the hardest part of caring for someone with LBD. Learning a Positive Approach to Care, taught by Teepa Snow, can be especially helpful for caregivers. At The Kensington Sierra Madre, our team is trained in this specialized approach to care. This approach helps caregivers communicate with their loved ones who may be difficult at times, and allows our team to provide care that is catered to individual needs.
Because LBD typically lasts 5-8 years, many caregivers often look to find an assisted living community that can provide quality care and comfort for their loved one.
Families should do their research to ensure the assisted living community can allow their loved ones to age in place, offering a continuum of healthcare that ranges from daily assistance from nurses to hospice care.
The Kensington Sierra Madre Memory Care Neighborhoods
Our Enhanced Assisted Living Residence (EALR) license allows us to feature around-the-clock nursing staff who can administer medical care, including injections, on-site rehabilitation, and two specialized memory care neighborhoods.
Unlike other assisted living communities, we gladly welcome all residents, including senior couples, into our community, no matter what condition they are in.
Our community is specialized in treating people who experience memory loss, caused by LBD, dementia, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease.
For residents experiencing the beginning stages of memory loss, we have our Connections neighborhood. Connections is specifically designed for residents who are showing increasing signs of memory loss, but who are still largely independent. Connections offers a safe and secure home-like atmosphere to its residents to keep them happy and healthy.
For residents experiencing more advanced stages of memory loss, we have our Haven neighborhood. Haven offers the highest level of assistance to its residents who often need more help from nurses to complete their daily activities. Like Connections, Haven is a fully-secured environment but also features a color-coded environment to help residents with cognition and to minimize confusion.
If you’re the caregiver of a loved one who may be experiencing symptoms of dementia, please contact us today to learn more about our memory care neighborhoods.
At The Kensington Sierra Madre, we extend our promise to love and take care of your family as we would our own.