Lewy-Body dementia is very different than Alzheimer's. While physical changes are similar, cognitive changes can be vastly different. Equally challenging, Lewy-Body dementia can present with a range of symptoms. These include problems with thinking, memory, moving, sleep and/or changes in behavior.
To better understand the unique challenges of LBD I spoke to Nance Tobar. Nance is caring for her father who has LBD. A misdiagnosis caused severe changes in his cognitive abilities due to the unique pathology of Lewy-Body.
Nance's dad, Joe, fell and became hospitalized. As a result, his medications were changed. Notably, they took him off of one medication that was stabilizing his memory. Consequently, the family lost 2-3 good years with their Dad.
Early and accurate diagnosis is important because LBD patients may react to certain medications differently than other memory patients. A variety of drugs can worsen LBD symptoms. Joe was prescribed an anti-psychotic. Thankfully, Nance was warned of the danger before she gave him any. Anti-psychotics can be fatal to a person with LBD.
Notably, LBD is the second most common form of dementia. Generally, LBD can have three common presentations; movement issues, cognitive impairment or neuropsychiatric symptoms, which can include hallucinations. Joe had hallucinations.
Regardless of the initial symptom, over time all three presentations will develop very similar cognitive, physical, sleep and behavioral features.
The most common symptoms of LBD include:
Impaired thinking, such as loss of executive function (planning, processing information), memory, or the ability to understand visual information.
Fluctuations in attention or alertness;
Problems with movement such as stiffness, slowness, and difficulty walking
Sleep disorders, like acting out one’s dreams while asleep
Depression, apathy, anxiety, agitation, delusions or paranoia
Changes in body functions, such as blood pressure control, temperature regulation, and bladder and bowel function.
To emphasize the lack of understandings of differences between LBD and Alzheimer's I talked to Nance. Her story illustrates the struggles that can happen as a result of not having a proper diagnosis. Nance and I are in the same caregiver support group. During the time just after her Dads, hospitalization was a rough time for her.
The changes due to the medication trials make her feel very guilty. Caregiver guilt is common but Nance has nothing to feel guilty about. She's caring for her father the best way she can. Sharing their stories is her way of helping other families.
Even if you are not caring for someone with Lewy-Body you'll find this conversation insightful. Understanding all we can about senior health issues makes us all more compassionate. Realizing what challenges people are facing also makes it easier to provide help.
Podcast Housekeeping Notes
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Until next week, hang in there!
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