Helping a Loved One with Lewy Body Dementia
Being a caregiver for a loved one with Lewy body dementia is a challenge for everyone involved. But if it's possible to gather the resources and support to keep your aging senior at home, that familiar environment may be the best place for them. Senior Helpers in Raynham offers compassionate care to help seniors age in place at home. That can mean a part-time senior companion offering a break for caregivers, or more full-time, specialized services.
Our mission is to foster quality of life and independence at home by helping clients and their families maintain peace of mind and a positive attitude through the process of aging. If you believe that you or a loved one are showing signs of Lewy body dementia, we'd like to help you assess your needs and identify how we can help.
What Is Lewy Body Dementia?
Lewy bodies are clumps of proteins that can form on the brain. When these proteins build up, they can affect memory, learning, movement, mood, and sleep.
Dementia is the inability to handle everyday tasks or to care for yourself. There are multiple forms of dementia, and the most commonly known is Alzheimer's. But Lewy body dementia (LBD) is also common. It is estimated to affect more than a million people in the United States, and their families.
Symptoms of Lewy Body Dementia
LBD is an umbrella term for two related diagnoses: dementia with Lewy bodies and Parkinson's disease with dementia.
Dementia with Lewy bodies differs from Alzheimer's in that a person with LBD will have difficulty with thinking and paying attention, but these symptoms will come and go unpredictably. Also, they may have hallucinations in the first years of the disease, while Alzheimer's patients generally don't have hallucinations until the end stage of the disease, if at all.
LBD patients diagnosed as Parkinson's disease with dementia will have difficulty moving, as people with Parkinson's do. Yet they will also have cognitive difficulties, which generally occur only in late stage Parkinson's, if at all.
So although LBD has symptoms similar to other forms of dementia, it can be more challenging because it involves both physical and cognitive difficulties. In addition, because symptoms may come and go unpredictably in early stages, it can be more difficult to diagnose and manage.
Signs of Lewy Body Dementia
LBD is generally diagnosed in people over 50, but its progression may take years and may start with minimal episodes of cognitive or movement difficulties that go unnoticed until they begin to cause problems in everyday tasks. You should speak with a physician as soon as you notice changes in cognitive or physical abilities. Early awareness and support will be beneficial, even if a specific diagnosis cannot yet be determined.
Signs that a loved one may have LBD include:
Cognitive difficulties: Trouble making decisions, or difficulty concentrating, organizing or remembering everyday tasks. Hallucinations (seeing things that aren't actually there) may also occur.
Movement difficulties: Shuffling or slow walk, balance problems, frequent falls, stiff muscles, tremors, stooped posture.
Sleep difficulties: Trouble falling asleep, restless legs or other violent movements when asleep, falling out of bed, sleeping more than 2 hours during the day.
Mood changes: Depression, anxiety, delusions (such as thinking a friend or loved one is an impostor).
Diagnosis may be difficult because of the similarities with other types of dementia. It is important to note that people with LBD may have adverse reactions to certain prescription or over-the-counter drugs. It's important to monitor effects closely when giving medication.
Treatment for Lewy Body Dementia
There is no known cure or method to reverse Lewy body dementia. But there are treatments to provide relief of symptoms and some non-medical ways to help.
Physical therapy can improve movement and balance.
Psychotherapy can ease depression, anxiety or other mental health struggles.
Occupational therapy can teach new, simplified ways to manage everyday tasks and self-care.
How an In-Home Caregiver Can Help
The aging process can be frightening and frustrating. With LBD, the combination of both physical and cognitive decline can be especially disorienting. You can help ease anxiety by creating a calm and consistent environment.
Create simple, predictable routines. Follow a set schedule and give both verbal and non-verbal cues about what is coming next. This may reduce confusion and anxiety.
Play calm, familiar music.
Create a go-to phrase, a simple song or prayer that your loved one knows well and can repeat when they need to calm and refocus.
Use chair yoga to promote movement, balance, and mindfulness.
Try aromatherapy to calm anxiety and improve mood.
Join a support group, either in person or virtually. The Lewy Body Dementia Association offers online groups and resources.
At Senior Helpers in Raynham, we offer compassionate senior care to support your loved one's quality of life and independence while aging at home. We proudly serve Plymouth, Raynham, Dartmouth, Attleboro, and Bristol County. We'd love to help! Please contact us to learn about our consistent senior care.