Lewy body dementia (LBD) is a progressive brain disease that affects around 1 million Americans.
Because its symptoms are similar to other forms of dementia, this disease is often underrecognized or misdiagnosed as Alzheimer’s.
Currently, there is no definitive test to diagnose LBD, making it difficult for caregivers to get more information on this type of disease.
If you’re the caregiver of a person who has recently been diagnosed with LBD, continue reading to learn more about this disease and how transitioning your loved one into a memory care community might be the best option for treatment.
How is Lewy Body Dementia Different From Other Forms of Dementia?
Dementia is a general term that encompasses many diseases that affect the brain, causing a person to lose their ability to remember, think, solve problems, use their body, and communicate.
There are multiple diseases that are considered dementia, including:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Vascular dementia
- Parkinson’s disease dementia
- Huntington’s disease
- Lewy body dementia, also referred to as Dementia with Lewy Bodies
- Mixed dementia
- Frontotemporal dementia (FTD)
- Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease
- Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus
- Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome
Of the many types of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease is the most common, with medical experts estimating that 60%-80% of people with dementia have Alzheimer’s disease.
While there are many shared symptoms between Alzheimer’s disease and LBD, there are some key differences, including the following:
- Memory loss is often worse in people with Alzheimer’s disease
- LBD causes movement symptoms earlier on than Alzheimer’s
- Hallucinations and delusions are much more common in people with LBD
- REM sleep disorder is more common in LBD than Alzheimer’s
- Dizziness, falls, and incontinence are more common in early LBD
What are the Stages of Lewy Body Dementia?
LBD is caused by microscopic deposits of protein in the brain called alpha-synuclein, which are referred to as “Lewy bodies.” When these proteins clump together in the brain they gradually damage brain cells over time, affecting a person’s ability to reason, move, and think.
LBD is easily distinguished between three key stages: early, middle, and late stages:
Early stages may involve hallucinations and other delusions, including REM sleep disorder.
Some people may experience muscle rigidity, causing their bodies to freeze in place while they’re moving around.
Unlike Alzheimer’s disease, people in the early stages of Lewy body dementia still have their memory mostly intact, although mild cognitive decline may begin to occur.
LBD begins to resemble symptoms of Parkinson’s disease in its middle stage.
A person’s motor skills will begin to become impaired, making it more difficult to walk around, use their hands, speak, and swallow.
Cognitive decline will be more pronounced during this phase, and increased paranoia and delusions will also occur.
In the late stages of LBD, muscle rigidity becomes extremely pronounced, making moving and speaking very difficult. People living in this stage will need help completing all of their activities of daily living, and are also more susceptible to pneumonia and other infections.
How a Family or Caregiver Can Support Their Loved One with Lewy Body Dementia
As a caregiver, special consideration should be made to avoid loud or chaotic environments that can irritate or confuse your loved one. Developing a peaceful routine can improve the quality of life for people living with LBD.
For example, playing calming music can be beneficial when a person with LBD becomes overwhelmed or frustrated.
Dealing with hallucinations and delusions is often the biggest challenge for caregivers.
Instead of arguing or becoming authoritative during these episodes, it’s better to offer a positive approach to care — offering empathy and compassion to diffuse these situations instead of escalating them.
Giving your loved one simple tasks to follow is a good way to minimize anxiety and stress. People with LBD benefit when they are giving a consistent schedule, exercise regularly and get enough sleep.
Signs It May Be Time to Transition a Loved one to a Memory Care Community
People living in the early stages of LBD typically don’t experience severe cognitive decline and can live somewhat independently with the help of a caregiver.
As the disease progresses, however, motor skills and cognitive decline will become more pronounced, and they will begin to rely on the help of a caregiver to complete much more of their activities of daily living, such as cleaning, eating, bathing, paying bills, and maintaining their house.
In the latest stage, people lose all independence and become completely reliant on caregivers to help them complete their activities.
There comes a time when a caregiver can no longer adequately give their loved one the care they require. This stage often occurs somewhere during the middle stages of the disease, when providing round-the-clock care becomes unsustainable for the caregiver, especially if their loved one recently visited the hospital.
Caregivers may develop guilt at the thought of moving their loved one into an assisted living community, however, this option is often the best thing a person can do for their loved one.
Assisted living and memory care communities offer many benefits for their residents, including increased socialization, on-site rehabilitation, 24-hour nursing care, life enrichment activities, dining services, and memory care exercises, including several other amenities.
Caregivers and families can rest assured knowing their loved one is in good hands, being treated by compassionate professionals who excel at helping people with memory loss and dementia.
Find Help at The Kensington Reston’s Memory Care Community
Our goal is to help caregivers and families find a safe, enriching environment for their loved one with memory loss.
Our community has an enhanced assisted living license, which allows us to provide a higher level of care than is normally seen in other communities. Our license enables us to employ a team of nurses who work 24 hours a day and are capable of providing medication administration.
At the Kensington Reston, we excel at helping those with memory loss get the treatment they deserve. We have two distinct memory care communities — Haven and Connections.
Each community is specially designed to help treat those who are either in the beginning stages of dementia, or in the late stages. Each community provides a fully secure environment with a higher level of care that’s found in other communities.
At the Kensington Reston, we extend Our Promise to you to love and take care of your family as we would our own.
If you’re the caregiver of a person with LBD, please contact us today to learn how our memory care community can provide exceptional care for your loved one.