Lewy body dementia is one of the most common types of dementia, but it often is not recognized early due to its similarity to other types of dementia or diseases.
Just like Alzheimer’s disease, Lewy body is a progressive dementia, where mental and physical abilities gradually change over time.
However, the earlier you recognize the symptoms, the sooner your loved one can receive a proper diagnosis — and the sooner you and your family can develop a care plan.
Learn about the symptoms of Lewy body dementia, how it differs from Alzheimer’s, and how you can effectively create a care plan for a loved one in various stages of the disease.
What is Lewy Body Dementia?
Lewy body dementia actually covers two types of dementia: dementia with Lewy bodies and Parkinson’s disease dementia. This is because both types of dementia are caused by abnormal protein deposits in the brain called Lewy bodies.
These proteins develop in the nerve cells in the brain that are responsible for memory, thinking, and motor control.
There is an overlap in symptoms related to Parkinson’s disease, Parkinson’s disease dementia, and dementia with Lewy bodies, which suggests that similar underlying issues in the brain are at play.
Lewy bodies can also be found in those with Alzheimer’s, and the trademark plaques and tangles in the brain that signify Alzheimer’s also may be present in those with Lewy body dementia.
How does Lewy body dementia differ from Alzheimer’s?
With all the overlapping brain changes, how can doctors even tell the difference between Lewy body dementia and Alzheimer’s?
The key differences lie in the symptoms.
Doctors are unable to see the exact brain characteristics of Lewy body dementia without actually inspecting the brain, so they must rely on symptoms they can physically see and measure from outside the body.
Memory loss is more commonly an early symptom of Alzheimer’s, while it may not show up until the later stages of Lewy body dementia.
Lewy body dementia, on the other hand, has more movement-related symptoms in the early stages.
What are the Symptoms of Lewy Body Dementia?
Since memory loss usually isn’t an early symptom of Lewy body dementia, it’s important to be able to recognize when it’s time to have your loved one evaluated by their doctor.
Lewy body dementia symptoms can mimic a lot of other diseases and disorders. If you don’t know what to watch for, it can be difficult to get an accurate early diagnosis. This type of dementia is most common in adults over the age of 50.
Watch for the following early symptoms of Lewy body dementia in your loved ones:
- Vivid, visual hallucinations or distortions of reality
- Changes in alertness and concentration
- Reduced coordination, balance issues, and frequent falls (similar to Parkinson’s disease symptoms)
- Changes in handwriting
- Changes in mood and behavior
- Sleep issues such as vivid dreams, sleepwalking, or insomnia
The differences in symptoms are based on which areas of the brain are affected.
How does it differ from other types of dementia?
Just as with other types of dementia, the way Lewy body dementia symptoms develop is unique to each individual. Some people may have a more rapid development, while others may have a slower progression.
The stages of Lewy body dementia can be defined similarly as well, into the early, middle, and late stages.
Symptoms may be milder at first, then become more severe as time passes. Your loved one will gradually need more assistance, and eventually will need full-time care and supervision.
What are the characteristics, then, that make a doctor more certain that someone has Lewy body dementia over the other types? It comes down to those Lewy body symptoms that you don’t normally see in someone with Alzheimer’s or even vascular dementia, those include:
- Both dementia and movement symptoms present
- Movement symptoms appear first, then dementia symptoms later
- Symptoms consistent with dementia with Lewy bodies or Parkinson’s disease dementia
Parkinson’s disease dementia and dementia with Lewy bodies are similar since Lewy bodies are present in both, but Parkinson’s disease dementia is different because you must be diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease first, then dementia symptoms appear later.
How to Create a Plan for Lewy Body Dementia Care
Once your loved one has received a Lewy body dementia diagnosis, caregivers and families can create a care plan.
This plan must be based on your loved one’s unique symptoms and progression of the disease, since every person will experience it differently.
This means that you need to carefully evaluate your loved one’s current needs, while also understanding how this type of dementia progresses.
If you or another family member is able to serve as a caregiver, be prepared to support your loved one with their potential movement issues, sleep disorders, and mood or behavior changes that will worsen over time.
Similarly to other types of dementia, symptoms often are managed with a combination of medications and various types of therapy to help preserve your loved one’s comfort and quality of life.
How a Memory Care Community Can Support Your Loved One
As part of their care plan, you may decide to move your loved one to a memory care community when their symptoms become difficult for a single caregiver or family to manage on their own.
Fortunately, communities such as Kensington Place Redwood City are equipped to expertly care for your loved one with Lewy body dementia. Kensington Place is rooted in a Promise to love and care for your family as we do our own.
This promise deeply influences the types of care we provide, from expert memory care to cozy dining and exciting life enrichment activities. We also have onsite rehabilitation services to perfectly match the types of therapy your loved one might need for their symptoms.
If you’re looking into memory care as an option for your loved one with dementia, please call us today. We would love to tell you more about what our expert, loving staff can do for you and your loved one.