Lewy Body Dementia (LBD) is the second most common type of progressive dementia, but many people haven’t heard of it. It’s closely related to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, and shares many of the symptoms with these two more widely known disorders.
LBD is often misdiagnosed because it does resemble other disorders.
LBD is hard to diagnose, due to the fact that it does resemble other disorders. Like Parkinson’s, patients can suffer from tremors, slower movements, a hunched back, and rigid muscles. Also like Parkinson’s, people who suffer from this disorder develop issues with reasoning and thinking.
LBD is also like Alzheimer’s in that patients progressively get worse mentally and emotionally. They have problems making decisions, problems paying attention, and issues with memory. Typically LBD patients don’t have as much of a problem with short term memory loss as Alzheimer’s patients do.
How is LBD different from both disorders?
What sets LBD apart are the hallucinations, physically acting out dreams while asleep, suddenly swings that go from alertness to blank looks, confusion, or drowsiness. LBD patients may hallucinate seeing shapes, colors, people, deceased loved ones, or animals. They believe what they see is real, and may have conversations and interactions with their hallucinations.
Patients also frequently have what is called the “Lewy Lean,” which means they have a tendency to lean to one side or have one shoulder dipped down farther than the other. Due to the Lewy Lean, when they walk they may often veer off to the left or right.
What should you watch for in your elder loved one?
Some of the symptoms below can be a normal part of aging, a symptom of another disorder, or a side effect of medication. If you notice a couple symptoms, or the one you do notice is troubling, speak with your elder’s physician. Also be sure to check out our article Warning Signs Your Elder May Need Help.
- A decline in mental function
- Difficulty with daily living tasks
- Motor problems
- The Lewy Lean
- Sleep problems – insomnia, speaking, kicking, punching, moving, or acting out dreams while asleep
- Fluctuations in autonomic processes such as blood pressure and body temperature
- Urinary problems and constipation
- Difficulty swallowing
While there is no cure for Lewy Body Dementia, your doctor may have ways of dealing with the symptoms, improving quality of life, and slowing progression. If your elder is or has been diagnosed, there are many avenues out there for support and information. A good place to start is the Alz.org website and the Lewy Body Dementia Association.