You may notice that your parents are not as sharp as they were in their thirties and forties. Some cognitive decline in old age is normal. We all slow down some, past sixty.
But people over 65 are at risk for developing dementia. One type of dementia is Lewy Body Dementia. This disorder happens when abnormal proteins, called synucleins, form around brain cell nerves. It is a physiological problem with symptoms that may look like mental illness. People who have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease are at a higher risk of also developing Lewy Body Dementia.
Lewy Body Dementia differs from other dementias, like Alzheimer disease, which is more common. The treatments for different dementias are not identical.
The different dementias have many symptoms in common, especially memory loss and confusion. And, because all dementias are progressive, these symptoms always get worse over time.
Lewy Body Dementia (LBD) is more likely to cause hallucinations than other dementias. These hallucinations can be very elaborate. For example, one Lewy Body patient thought that the plants on his balcony had become child musicians who were performing for an audience down below. And the audience was dancing to the music.
More common hallucinations are confusing one person with another, for instance thinking a wife is a brother. Or the patient may hear sounds and smell substances that are nowhere present.
These hallucinations may be marked by new, made up names for familiar people. For example, an LBD patient once called his wife “Damaged Portilla,” though her name was Ava.
LBD patients experience disruptions in REM sleep. The REM part of the sleep cycle is characterized by rapid eye movements and dreams. Everyone’s sleep has REM cycles. In LBD, patients want to act out those dreams, physically.
Another hallmark symptom of Lewy Body Dementia is fluctuating alertness. The patient will exhibit periods of normal wakefulness, have a conversation, do a task. Then he may stare into space for a while or take the third nap of the day.
LBD patients often exhibit symptoms that look like Parkinson’s or are Parkinson’s. These symptoms might include tremors and slowness of movement.
Only a qualified doctor can diagnose LBD. Caregivers should make detailed notes about their mother or father’s symptoms. This will help a specialist determine if the problem is LBD or another physiological problem.
If you have hired an elderly care service, ask the worker who visits your parent to observe behavior and make written notes. These can be invaluable in helping clinic staff make an accurate diagnosis.
If your parent has LBD or is showing signs, you may want to carefully consider hiring an elderly care specialist or company to make regular visits to your parent’s home. By helping with cooking, cleaning, and bathing, these home care professionals can ensure that a beloved parent is able to remain at home.
In conclusion, LBD should not be confused with other mental health issues. An accurate diagnosis is paramount to effective treatment. Professional home care is invaluable to LBD patients because it can allow them to remain independent and age in place for as long as possible.
Mayo Clinic Q and A: Lewy body dementia and Alzheimer’s disease — what’s the difference?
If you or an aging loved one is considering elderly care in Minnetonka, MN, and the surrounding areas, please contact the friendly staff at CareBuilders at Home Minnesota. Call today 612-260-2273.