While Alzheimer’s disease is the leading type of dementia in and around the Highland Park and the Northshore, Lewy body dementia, although less well-known, is the second most common type of progressive dementia. According to the Lewy Body Dementia Association, about 1.3 million people are living with this disease—and it affects more men than women.
Due to many similarities in symptoms, Lewy body dementia (LBD) is often misdiagnosed as Alzheimer’s disease and even Parkinson’s disease. Both Alzheimer’s and LBD can cause a progressive decline in mental functions, however, those with LBD may also experience visual hallucinations. And similar to Parkinson’s disease, LBD can also present with muscle rigidity and tremors.
Adults over 60 years old, especially men and those who have a family member already diagnosed with LBD, have a higher risk for Lewy body dementia.
Signs and Symptoms
Signs and symptoms of Lewy body dementia may include:
- Memory loss
- Difficulty focusing attention
- Drowsiness or long daytime naps.
- Visual hallucinations
- Tremors, shuffling walk, and slowed movement
- Difficulty sleeping, including acting out dreams
- Poor regulation of bodily functions.
Coping & Caregiving
About 80% of people living with LBD can be initially misdiagnosed. Experts note that input from caregivers with details of symptoms could help with better diagnoses. For many families, getting a correct diagnosis for LBD can be a relief and a huge help in finding ways to cope with the disease. Medications can help to manage symptoms, even if there is no cure for the disease. Such treatments have the potential to slow the progression of LBD.
Those living with LBD may experience a variety of emotions including anger, grief and depression. Caregivers can help relief these emotions by listening as this person shares their worries and anxieties. In addition, caregivers need to be attentive to the physical changes that their loved ones are experiencing, not only from the symptoms of the disease but also from negative reaction to any medication.
Family members can also experience a mix of feelings as they take on this new role as caregiver. The Lewy Body Dementia Association provides resources for LBD caregivers to find support. There are online peer-to-peer support options and ways to find a local group to meet up with regularly.