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Beyond Alzheimer’s _Exploring Lewy Body Dementia

When a loved one begins to exhibit signs of dementia, it is one of the most difficult challenges to face. Little slips of memory, failure to recognize places or people, and, even worse, changes in demeanor or temperament can all be signs that something is amiss.

If you are experiencing this situation and seeing any evidence of a decline in a relative over age 60, the first thing you want to do is seek help from a qualified doctor. While Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, Lewy Body Dementia, also referred to as LBD or dementia with Lewy bodies, is the second most common form of progressive dementia.

Lewy Body Dementia, as discussed, is a progressive disease. It is usually understood as occurring in 7 steps or stages.

● Stages one through three

At this point in the onset of the disorder, it is still difficult to understand exactly what is happening to your loved one. In stage one there is usually nothing to be diagnosed because there are no outward symptoms yet appearing. The essence of Lewy Body Dementia is the fact that protein deposits, which are called Lewy Bodies, are attaching themselves to parts of the brain. They gradually begin to affect the thought process, memory recall, and physical control of the person suffering.

In stage two, differences in thinking or control will become a little more apparent. This will usually only be noticed by people very close to the patient, and can easily be brushed off as having a “senior moment.”

In stage three, the person afflicted will seem less able to concentrate. They may be forgetting names or experiencing heightened, uncharacteristic confusion. This is usually when relatives or caretakers will start to think about taking the patient in to see a doctor.

● Stages four and five

After an examination, some kind of dementia will usually be diagnosed by stage four. At this point in the progression, real-life activities can become a struggle with the patient. There may be moments of confusion that set in for several hours, or even days, before a return to “normal” thinking. Slowed or fragmented thinking can also occur. These kinds of things can become apparent when the patient tries to discuss plans, locations, or details.

Stage five is usually the point where some assistance will be necessary. LBD also has physical and psychological effects on the patient. They will most likely be unable to remember things like their phone number or address. It is also at this time that they may require assistance for things like feeding or bathing.

● Stages six and seven

In stage six, the patient will need a high level of care. They will most likely lose all but their earliest memories. The physical toll at this point is usually loss of speech and incontinence. There can also be more pronounced psychological effects. Up to 80% of patients will experience visual hallucinations, and some will undergo a complete personality change. By stage seven, around-the-clock support will be needed. This last stage will usually only last about two years, and then the disease will result in death.

Dealing with dementia is a heart-breaking ordeal, but the sooner you have a diagnosis from a caring provider, the sooner you will know how to comfort and care for your loved one.

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