What is Lewy Body Dementia and how can caregivers/professionals help manage its symptoms?
Lewy Body Dementia (LBD) is a type of dementia that refers to both Dementia with Lewy Bodies and Parkinson’s Disease Dementia. LBD is a disease associated with abnormal deposits of a protein called alpha-synuclein in the brain. These deposits, called Lewy bodies, affect chemicals in the brain whose changes, in turn, can lead to problems with thinking, movement, behavior, and mood. Lewy body dementia is one of the most common causes of dementia.
In Dementia with Lewy Bodies, a cognitive decline is apparent before motor symptoms occur. This disease often seems like Alzheimer’s Disease in the beginning, as the disease progresses motor symptoms begin to occur. It typically lasts 5-8 years, with great variability from person to person.
- Dementia with progressive cognitive decline
- Prominent/persistent memory impairment
- Deficits in attention, executive function, visuospatial abilities
- REM sleep behavior disorder (acting out dreams, falling out of bed)
- Fluctuating attention/alertness
- Detailed visual hallucinations
- Spontaneous features of Parkinsonism
- Rigidity, tremor, slow movements, weak voice
Parkinson’s Disease Dementia begins as a movement disorder, and cognitive decline becomes apparent as the disease progresses.
- Bradykinesia (slowness of movement)
- Resting tremor
- Shuffling gait
- Weak voice
- Changes in mood and behavior
- Cognitive decline
General Tips for caregivers/professionals to manage symptoms of LBD:
- Speak calmly and softly and remember that your loved one isn’t acting this way on purpose. Try not to get upset or take it personally.
- If your loved one is aggressive or angry, try to give them some space.
- Validate their feelings and emotions.
- Distract them in meaningful ways. You know your loved one best, so choose meaningful activities that you know they will enjoy.
- Avoid quizzing them. This will likely embarrass them if they don’t know the answer
- Simplify your language. For example, use less idioms, abstract concepts or phrases that might be confusing
- Reduce other noises (such as a radio or tv) while talking. This could be distracting for them or lead them to think there are people in the next room.
- Although your loved one might be changing, routines do not have to change. Try to keep similar routines such as; hygiene routines, mealtime routines and household chores. However, be sure to reexamine routines often as modifications may be necessary.
- Exercise is very important for your loved one. Staying active can improve their strength, cardiovascular health, energy, circulation, stamina, mood and sleep. It will also help maintain flexibility and balance which may also reduce the risk of falls. If exercise becomes a familiar activity, it can become very calming as well.
Tips to reduce or manage your loved one’s tendency to wander:
- Your loved one may be wandering to express that he/she needs something. Therefore, make sure your loved one is getting all of his/her’s needs met.
- Make sure your home is safe in case of wandering during the dark or at night. You can post signs that say “Bathroom,” “Bedroom” and “Kitchen” on the doors in your home. This will help them remember where they are and where they are going.
- Keep car keys out of sight so that the wandering doesnt turn into driving.
– Mara H.