Understanding a Lewy Body Dementia Diagnosis

lewy-body-dementia

Lewy Body Dementia (LBD) affects 1.4 million people in the United States and is the second leading cause of dementia, according to the Lewy Body Dementia Association. LBD is a combination of two distinct diagnoses, Parkinson’s disease dementia and dementia with Lewy bodies.

Lewy bodies are clumps of abnormal proteins in the outer layer of the brain, the cerebral cortex and are associated with both forms of dementia. When dementia develops after the established motor disorder, it is called Parkinson’s disease with dementia (PDD). When dementia occurs at the same time as the motor disorder, it is called dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB). They are both on the continuum of the same disease. These two conditions can cause the same underlying biological changes in the brain. In the later stages, the two diagnoses exhibit similar behavioral, cognitive, physical, and sleep symptoms. Sufferers also frequently experience hallucinations and bouts of ongoing depression.

Getting the Right Diagnosis

Despite being widespread, LBD is frequently underdiagnosed and misdiagnosed by health care professionals. It can resemble other causes of dementia such as Alzheimer’s disease. James E. Galvin, MD at Florida Atlantic University has developed a way to assess and diagnose LBD. The system is known as the Lewy Body Composite Risk Score (LBCRS).

The LBCRS system of diagnosis is based on a rating scale. The assessment is one page long and features six questions that quickly outline whether the patient suffers from six non-motor symptoms that are distinct to LBD, but not other forms of dementia. The physician can quickly determine if the person suffers from rest tremors, rigidity, bradykinesia, or postural instability by asking a few questions.

Getting the Help You Need

A clear diagnosis of LBD is imperative to help prevent patients from being misdiagnosed and, therefore, misprescribed. In fact, taking the wrong medication could possibly have serious adverse consequences and will not help to treat LBD.

A definitive and prompt diagnosis of LBD gives physicians the chance to quickly begin medical therapies that may help or improve the quality of life for the LBD sufferer. Usually, a combination of the Lewy Body Composite Risk Score System, PET scans, CSF biomarkers, high-density EEG, and MRI tests are used to arrive at a clear diagnosis of LBD.

Facing a Lewy Body Dementia diagnosis can be frightening for both the patient and their loved ones. If you need extra help caring for a loved one who suffers from LBD, our in-home health care services, whether part time or full, can offer you additional support.

For more information about David York Agency’s qualified, compassionate caregivers, contact us at 718.376.7755. A free consultation can help you decide what services might be best to provide you and your loved one with the assistance they need.

If you’d like to hear more from us, please like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter, Google+, or LinkedIn. For more information on discharge planning, contact us.

Lewy Body Dementia: Know the Facts

Lewy Body Dementia

Imagine an illness that causes your loved one to lose control of their movements and balance, devastates their cognitive functions, and eventually, causes them to vividly hallucinate. Their memory becomes foggy, and everyday activities, such as eating, dressing, and even using the toilet, become an hourly challenge. Nighttime brings no relief, as your mother, father, or spouse cries out and gestures wildly in their sleep in the wee hours of the morning.

These are the hallmarks of a disease known as Lewy Body Dementia (LBD). According to a recently published article on Lewy Body Dementia, this disease affects “somewhere around 1.3 million Americans” and is “the second most common form of dementia (after Alzheimer’s disease).”

What to Know About Lewy Body Dementia

The article lists facts about this serious, but often overlooked, disease that affects millions. Here’s what you need to know:

Lewy Body Dementia is:

  • Difficult to diagnose. A true diagnosis can only be made post-mortem, through a brain biopsy.
  • A form of dementia, LBD is related to Parkinson’s Disease Dementia and Alzheimer’s Dementia. Symptoms include: memory and cognitive impairment, sleep disturbances, balance and gait changes, tremors, confusion and physical symptoms, such as blood pressure fluctuations, constipation and fainting spells.
  • Highly unpredictable. Symptoms affect every person differently and don’t follow stages or patterns in their progression, as some other dementias do.
  • Has no known cure. Though some medications can help manage certain symptoms, there are no medications shown to halt or stop the progression of LBD. Certain medications can even cause adverse reactions in people with LBD, so timely diagnosis and skilled medication administration are very important in the management of this disease.

Lewy Body Dementia is not:

  • It is not a normal part of the aging process.
  • Though it is often difficult to differentiate a diagnosis, it is not the same as Parkinson’s disease. If a person develops dementia within a year of their Parkinson’s diagnosis, they are generally thought to have LBD. Symptoms LBD shares with Parkinson’s include: shuffling gait, balance issues, and tremors.
  • It is not the same as Alzheimer’s Dementia (AD). Those with AD usually experience a worsening of cognitive and behavioral symptoms in the evenings, known as “sundowning.” LBD is much less predictable; dementia symptoms may worsen or lessen at any time, for any reason.

Lewy Body Dementia and Home Care

Lewy Body Dementia is a unique illness with unique challenges. It is a round-the-clock illness that puts serious strain on caregivers, especially as the disease progresses. It presents several challenges related to its variety of symptoms. Astute caregivers can help ease the situation for both the patient and family.  

  • High Fall Risks: As with other dementias, people with LBD have a high risk for falls, due to altered gait and balance, poor memory, and musculoskeletal decline. Home health aides can assist with activities, such as bathing, dressing, and other tasks around the home. A nurse or a social worker can perform an environmental assessment of your home to help reduce the risk of falls.
  • Medication Complications: A nurse can assist with medication management and administration, including monitoring medications that could potentially be dangerous for the LBD patient.
  • Caregiver Support: As LBD progresses, your loved one will likely suffer from delusions, hallucinations, memory problems, cognitive impairments and sleep issues. An extra set of hands during the day and an extra set of eyes at night can provide much-needed rest and peace of mind to a devoted and weary caregiver.

At the David York Agency, we understand how difficult and life-changing an LBD diagnosis can be. You do not have to be alone in your efforts to give your loved one the best care possible. Our experienced healthcare professionals are highly-trained and capable of providing the extra support and attention that a Lewy Body Dementia patient requires.

For more information about David York Agency’s qualified, compassionate caregivers, contact us at 718.376.7755. A free consultation can help you decide what services might be best to provide you and your loved one with the assistance they need. If you’d like to hear more from us, please like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter, Google+ or LinkedIn.