There are over 1.3 million Americans suffering from a form of dementia which can very closely resemble Alzheimer’s in its early stages. If it is misdiagnosed as Alzheimer’s Disease, not only will necessary treatment be delayed, but severely adverse reactions to Alzheimer’s medications may be experienced.
This form of dementia is called Lewy Body Dementia, or LBD. It is named after Friederich Lewy. Over a century ago, Dr. Lewy was doing research on Parkinson’s disease when he discovered abnormal protein deposits that lodged in the brain stem and other areas of the brain, seriously corrupting brain function. These protein deposits came to be known as Lewy Body Proteins.
There are three common ways that a person with LBD may display symptoms:
- A person may exhibit signs of Alzheimer’s disease, with memory loss and thought disruption. But over the course of a few years, the disease differentiates itself with the following characteristics:
- fluctuating levels of cognitive ability
- a state of attention or alertness
- changes in walking or movement
- “seeing things”
- severely adverse reaction to antipsychotic medications
- a sleep disorder in which hallucinations are acted out (REM Sleep Behavior Disorder)
- A person may exhibit walking and movement disorders that are similar to and often diagnosed as Parkinson’s Disease. However, they later develop dementia and the other symptoms of LBD.
- A person may demonstrate severe psychiatric symptoms first, with hallucinations, difficult behaviors, and a breakdown in complex mental processing. Over time, other symptoms of LBD become apparent. (Adapted from information at www.lewybodydementia.org)
The bottom line for caregivers and concerned family members is this: Anytime you observe changes in memory and cognitive function, changes in physical movement and gait patterns, changes in sleep patterns, or behavior problems, in any order or combination, you have to consider the possibility of Lewy Body Dementia. Because LBD is not as widely recognized as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s, it may be up to those who care for the patient to ask: Could it be Lewy Body Dementia?
Your Cascade Companion Care client documentation log can be invaluable in making fine distinctions in symptoms. During each visit, the caregiver notes any new condition or behavior, or any change in a known condition. These observations, when reported to your medical provider, can become a critical part of proper diagnosis and treatment. If you do not regularly read the documentation log, ask your Cascade Companion Care caregiver to familiarize you with its contents. You may add your own notes, observations, and medical visit information to this log so that it reflects an up-to-date reflection of your loved one’s current health.
For more information on Lewy Body Dementia, visit http://www.leweybodydementia. org or http://www.primarypsychiatry.com/aspx/articledetail.aspx?articleid=2034 for a comparison of LBD with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.