Diagnosis Lewy Body Dementia - What You Need to Know

Lewy Body Dementia (LBD) is caused by the build up of proteins called lewy bodies in the patient's brain. Doctors do not know what causes the proteins to form. Over time, the proteins destroy brain tissue. There are no treatments that can reverse or stop the brain damage caused by the proteins.

A person who has LBD will slowly decline, losing the ability to think clearly, make good decisions and remember. As time passes, he will need more and more assistance to care for himself. Your family member may experience rapid, noticable changes in his alertness and ability to pay attention. You might also see sleepiness, staring off into space or difficult to follow speech.

Your family member may experience recurring visual hallucinations seeing things or people who aren't really there. He may also experience rigid muscles and lose the ability to move easily when he wants to which is similar to the physical symptoms of Parkinson's disease.

While there is no cure, your family member can be treated for the symptoms. He may be prescribed donepezil and rivastigmine. These drugs are also used to treat Alzheimer's disease, helping him think and remember better. He may also be prescribed levodopa to combat movement problems. Anti-psychotic drugs are usually not prescribed to deal with hallucinations because they can greatly increase the chance of movement problems.

Things to consider when faced with a diagnosis of LBD:

  1. Find the right doctor to manage your family member's care and get your family member on the drugs typically prescribed for Alzheimer's patients. The drugs will enhance and extend your family member's independence.
  2. Begin to build a long term plan of how you will care for your family member. Your family member's need for care for increase as the years pass. Knowing how you will provide care and how the family will pay for it are critical.
  3. Talk with your family member about his wishes for care in the future. Now is the time to have conversations that will not be possible in the future.
  4. Take time to have fun and make memories. If there is a trip you want to take or an activity that you want to participate in with your family member, the early stages are the time to do it.
  5. Join a support group. The Lewy Body Dementia Association sponsors support groups for families.

To learn more about LBD follow these links.
Lewy Body Dementia Association
Family Caregiver Alliance

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