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Caregiver Insights: 9 Key Facts About Lewy Body Dementia

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Caregiver Insights: 9 Key Facts About Lewy Body Dementia

Cognitive decline, or memory loss, can have a variety of causes. Some forms can be short-term in nature as a result of injury, illness or medications, for example. Progressive, long-term memory loss, generally referred to as dementia, also has several different causes.

“While Alzheimer’s disease is the most common and well-known form of dementia, there are actually several other types of dementia that families should be aware of today,” says Heather Miller, Personal Care Administrator at Impressions Memory Care at Bryn Mawr located in Bryn Mawr, PA.

“Dementia caused by Lewy bodies in the brain – or Lewy body dementia – is one of the more prominent of these other forms. Because Lewy body dementia is often confused with Alzheimer’s disease, it is important for family caregivers to seek a medical evaluation for a loved one with memory loss early to determine the correct diagnosis and treatment options.”

Lewy Bodies: A Common Cause of Dementia

The Alzheimer’s Association® tells us that Lewy body dementia is believed to be the third most common cause of dementia after Alzheimer's disease and vascular dementia. It is estimated that Lewy body dementia represents between 10 to 25% of all dementia cases.

According to dementia specialists, Lewy bodies are described as “abnormal aggregations (or clumps) of the protein alpha-synuclein. When they develop in a part of the brain called the cortex, dementia can result. Alpha-synuclein also gathers in the brains of people with Parkinson's disease, but they may appear in a pattern that is different from dementia with Lewy bodies.”

To date, dementia research experts have not identified the underlying cause of these alpha-synuclein clumps, or Lewy bodies, in the brain. They say that most individuals diagnosed with this form of memory loss have no family history of the disorder. At this point, they have not conclusively identified genes linked to Lewy body dementia.

9 Defining Characteristics of Lewy Body Dementia

Because of its similarities to Alzheimer’s disease, it is essential to understand the common identifying symptoms of Lewy body dementia. To assist families, the Alzheimer’s Association® shares the following characteristics to look for:

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

Caring for Your Loved One with Lewy Body Dementia

The Alzheimer’s Association® states, “There are no treatments that can slow or stop the brain cell damage caused by dementia with Lewy bodies. Current strategies focus on helping symptoms.”

As a result, your loved one’s care plan to relieve symptoms might include the use of medications. Because Lewy body dementia causes individuals to be extremely sensitive to anti-psychotic medications, it is crucial to work closely with a physician to identify the drugs that will work best and will not do harm to your loved one.

Also, the following national resources are available to help you:

If your loved one has reached the stage where they can no longer be safely and effectively cared for in the home, Impressions Memory Care at Bryn Mawr has the expertise, experience, and specially trained memory care team to care for loved ones with all forms of dementia.  We excel in personalized care that promotes the health, well-being, social needs and independent choices of each resident.

We encourage you to contact us with any questions you have on dementia care or to schedule a tour. We also invite you to read our timely articles on current caregiver and dementia care topics posted on our website.

We Would Love to Hear from You!

If you have comments or questions about our blog on Lewy Body Dementia, we would love to hear from you. We also encourage you to share any of your caregiving experiences in our comments section.

Engaging Days. Meaningful Moments

Loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease or other memory impairments require specialized care and support. They also deserve a lifestyle rich in dignity and fulfillment. Impressions Memory Care at Bryn Mawr provides residents with Engaging Days and Meaningful Moments that emphasize individual abilities, encourage socialization and promote the highest level of independence possible. We offer a complete continuum of leading-edge programs, services and amenities that address the total physical, emotional and social needs of residents in a caring setting that offers individual suites with large private baths and the comfort of home. Our memory care community touches hearts and changes lives.

Helping Families Be “Family” Again

Memory loss caused by Alzheimer’s disease, dementia or another form of memory impairment doesn’t only affect the person who has it – it affects the entire family.

If you have a loved one with early- to mid-stage memory loss, you know how challenging it can be to provide the care that’s needed while trying to maintain balance in your life. As care needs increase, you may not be able to meet them physically or emotionally. It’s often difficult to be available to care for your loved one’s health and well-being around the clock.

If and when the time comes to seek additional help, place your trust in Impressions Memory Care at Bryn Mawr. We lift the stresses and worries of being a caregiver from your shoulders, enabling you and your family to enjoy time with your loved one again.

For more information, please call Sharon at 484.380.5400 or contact us online.

Disclaimer: The articles and tip sheets on this website are offered by Impressions Memory Care at Bryn Mawr and Main Line Senior Care Alliance for general informational and educational purposes and do not constitute legal or medical advice. For legal or medical advice, please contact your attorney or physician.