Lewy Body Dementia

Well almost everyone knows about Alzheimer’s disease when discussing the elderly and assisted-living facilities, there are often other types of dementia that are overlooked. The most common type of dementia after Alzheimer’s disease is Lewy body dementia.  Similar to Alzheimer’s disease, this type of dementia does have severe impact on memory, but it also has a host of other symptoms that distinguish it from strokes, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease. These other symptoms can have a severe impact on the patient’s quality of life, as well as their friends and family. Therefore, it is important to give an overview of this a dangerous disease so everyone knows what to look for.

First of all, it is important to discuss the symptoms associated with this form of dementia. Early on, this disease can resemble a cross between Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. On the other hand, this disease also tends to progress more rapidly.  while the patient will certainly exhibit a cognitive decline, patience with this for dementia will also develop symptoms of psychosis. This includes auditory and visual hallucinations which help to distinguish it from Alzheimer’s disease.

These hallucinations may also make it difficult for the patient to perform the typical functions associated with daily living. As the disease progresses, patients will start to have difficulty walking, talking, and eating. These symptoms can resemble Parkinson’s disease, but remember that the psychotic symptoms distinguish it from Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

The only way to 100% confirm this diagnosis is with a brain biopsy. This is impossible prior to the patient’s death. Therefore, a diagnosis is primarily based on the clinical symptoms. A brain MRI may be ordered to help grade the severity of the dementia. A rapid diagnosis is important because many of these symptoms will responded to appropriate treatment. The psychotic symptoms are typically responsive to antipsychotic medications, such as Haldol or Abilify. The memory symptoms can be treated with the same medications used to treat Alzheimer’s, such as donepezil. It is vital that the provider as well as the patient’s family and friends understand that treating the symptoms may cause other side effects. The side effects should be balanced with the symptoms.

Patients with this form of dementia living in an assisted living facility should keep several important factors in mind. First, while the dementia can be visually striking, it is important to remember that these patients have a disease. They should be treated with the same care and emotional comfort as any other patient.
Second, there are ways to assist the patient and maintaining their cognitive abilities. Make sure that assistive devices are available to help with the physical ailments. Make sure that there are plenty of lights and clocks to orient the patient to the time of day and location. Finally, make sure to educate others about the seriousness of this dementia.

Categories: General Information, Health and Wellness, and Resource Center.

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