What Is Lewy Body Dementia?

Senior StressLewy body dementia (LBD) is the second most common form of dementia after Alzheimer’s Disease. Lewy bodies are abnormal protein deposits in the brain that interrupt its normal functions. LBD affects an estimated 1.4 million people in the United States. Even the late actor, Robin Williams, was also affected by this form of progressive dementia. He is said to have experienced worsening anxiety attacks, delusions, trouble moving, and muscle rigidity in the last year of his life.

What Are the Symptoms of Lewy Body Dementia?

Many of the symptoms in LBD patients are similar to symptoms of those living with Alzheimer’s. Both of these chronic illnesses are progressive dementias—as time passes, symptoms worsen. After Lewy bodies start building up in the brain,  a person’s memory, movement, thinking, mood, and behavior can be affected. They may also experience visual hallucinations. Other symptoms of Lewy Body Dementia include:

  • Parkinson’s-like symptoms, such as hunched posture, balance problems, and stiff muscles
  • Having trouble interpreting visual information
  • Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep disorder that can cause your loved one to act out dreams, sometimes violently
  • Problems with their autonomic nervous system that controls bodily functions not consciously directed like breathing and digestive processes

What Are the Differences Between Alzheimer’s and LBD?

It may be difficult determining if someone has Alzheimer’s or LBD because of their similar symptoms. Lewy bodies exist side by side with brain changes made by Alzheimer’s disease, but there are some key differences in the two diseases:

  • Memory loss is more prominent in early Alzheimer’s than in early LBD
  • Having trouble with movement is more likely in early LBD than Alzheimer’s
  • Hallucinations are significantly more frequent in early LBD than Alzheimer’s
  • REM sleep disorder is more common in early LBD than Alzheimer’s
  • Problems with autonomic nervous system occur commonly in early LBD than Alzheimer’s

It’s essential for your loved one to have the proper diagnosis for their condition. LBD can cause your loved one to be extremely sensitive to certain medications while being safe for someone who has Alzheimer’s.

What Are the Treatment Options for LBD?

Unfortunately, like Alzheimer’s and other progressive dementias, LBD has no cure. There are treatments that can help manage symptoms of LBD. Drugs used for Parkinson’s disease like Levodopa can improve movement problems or stiff muscles in your loved one. A doctor may prescribe Clonazepam to help your loved one with their REM sleep disorder. Physical therapy can also help improve posture and balance for those with LBD. For those who are suffering from depression or anxiety, psychotherapy is recommended.

How a Caregiver Can Help Your Loved One with LBD

Things like bathing, grooming, and toileting can become difficult for your loved one if they have LBD. A professional caregiver with experience in helping dementia patients can provide the necessary personal care they need. Caring for a senior with LBD can be difficult and stressful to do on your own.

Find Experienced Dementia Caregivers in New Jersey

Let our nationally accredited care team help get your loved one the help they need. Give us a call today at (973) 538-4357.