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Lewy Body Dementia: What You Need to Know

With the death of Robin Williams, millions of people were introduced to the term “Lewy Body Dementia”. Few understood what it was; only that it was a disease with a funny-sounding name. And one which contributed to the overwhelming depression and ultimate suicide of a very funny guy.

Well there is nothing funny about Lewy Body Dementia. It is the second most common type of dementia, behind Alzheimer’s. And, for anyone with an aging loved one, it’s important to know as much as possible about Lewy Body Dementia, or “LBD”.

Here are a few facts:

  • Lewy Body Dementia currently affects an estimated 1.4 million individuals in the U.S.
  • It involves the build-up of protein deposits in nerve cells located in the area of the brain that controls memory, thinking and movement. The body of deposits are called “Lewy Bodies”, named after neurologist, Frederick Henry Lewy, who made the discovery back in 1910.
  • It is easy to misdiagnose LBD because early symptoms are closely aligned other diseases; most commonly Parkinson’s Disease and Alzheimer’s.

It’s important to catch LBD as early as possible. It’s also important to get a second opinion to ensure that an accurate assessment and diagnosis is made.

How do you know if your loved one is developing Lewy Body Dementia?

The Alzheimer’s Association lists the following key indications of LBD:

  • Changes in thinking and reasoning
  • Confusion and alertness that varies significantly from one time of day to another or from one day to the next
  • Parkinson's symptoms, such as a hunched posture, balance problems and rigid muscles
  • Visual hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Trouble interpreting visual information
  • Acting out dreams, sometimes violently, a problem known as rapid eye movement (REM) sleep disorder
  • Malfunctions of the "automatic" (autonomic) nervous system
  • Memory loss that may be significant but less prominent than in Alzheimer's

You can see from the list above how the symptoms can be confused with other illnesses and potentially misdiagnosed. And that can be problematic. Because many of the drugs that work to reduce the effects of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s can actually worsen the effects of LBD, according to the Lewy Body Dementia Association (LBDA).

Don’t go it alone.

It’s important to learn as much as possible about LBD and to locate resources you can trust. Anthem Memory Care communities provide free monthly dementia support groups; a great source of information and support for anyone dealing with the challenges of LBD. We urge you to contact us for information on a support group in your area.