Lewy body dementia (LBD) can be a difficult condition to deal with, and those who have it can often benefit from memory care. There are 7 stages of Lewy body dementia based on the symptoms and level of cognitive decline the person is experiencing.
LBD is a condition that affects more than 1 million people in the United States. It’s a progressive disease that typically starts showing symptoms after age 50. As the disease progresses through the 7 stages, it can affect a person’s memory, thinking, and movement.
It’s essential to understand the symptoms and stages of LBD to help those living with the disease and assist their caregivers in managing the condition, as well as helping them determine when professional assistance could be beneficial.
What Is Lewy Body Dementia?
According to the Lewy Body Dementia Association (LBDA), an estimated 1.4 million individuals are living with this disease. LBD is a type of dementia caused by protein clumps known as Lewy bodies in the brain. There are 2 types of LBD, Parkinson’s disease dementia and dementia with Lewy bodies.
Alpha-synuclein proteins, which are present in the nuclei of the brain, have been identified as the distinguishing feature of LBD. The underlying cause of LBD remains unknown. However, researchers are making progress in their comprehension of its genetics and biology.
It is now known that the buildup of Lewy bodies leads to the loss of specific neurons in the brain that produce 2 crucial neurotransmitters, namely acetylcholine and dopamine.
Acetylcholine is vital for memory and learning, while dopamine is essential for behavior, cognition, movement, motivation, sleep, and mood, which are affected by LBD.
Although LBD shares similarities with other types of dementia, its unique progression patterns can make it challenging to predict. Additionally, LBD is known to cause intense cognitive decline and fluctuating symptoms.
The Stages of Lewy Body Dementia
As Lewy body dementia progresses, the symptoms may become more severe and disruptive to daily life. However, detecting and diagnosing the disease can be tricky, as early stages may not exhibit any noticeable signs.
At first, there may be no signs or symptoms of LBD, however, Lewy bodies may be observed in MRIs or CT scans. Though, there also may not be signs in the brain at this stage. Generally, there is no cognitive decline.
In the early stages, your loved one may display mild symptoms such as minor changes in behavior and forgetfulness. Despite this, they should still be able to carry out their daily activities. Unfortunately, these signs can be hard to spot, which can make it challenging to detect and diagnose the condition.
In stage 3, mild cognitive decline may be present, leading to an increased occurrence of forgetfulness and confusion. This can also lead to an increase in the risk of falls.
In stage 4 of LBD, memory problems become more frequent, and everyday tasks become increasingly challenging. These symptoms can significantly disrupt a person’s daily life, and they may require help to carry out their activities. At this stage, doctors can often diagnose the disease by detecting cognitive decline during an examination, making it the most common stage for official LBD diagnoses.
In stage 5, a person with LBD may require assistance with all aspects of daily care, including meal preparation and bathing. They’re also likely to experience significant memory loss and have difficulty with movement and coordination. They may have hallucinations and delusions and may demonstrate inappropriate or unpredictable behavior.
Stage 6 may find the person bedridden and unable to communicate, with significant memory loss and personality changes. Memory loss continues to the point where they may only recall their early life, and they may demonstrate personality changes. They may be unable to control their bowel or bladder. It’s common for people to exhibit a change in personality at this stage.
Finally, in stage 7, cognitive decline is severe, often leading to a loss of communication and mobility. People with late-stage LBD often require rebound-the-clock care.
What You Can Do to Help
It’s important to note that the progression of Lewy body dementia can be unpredictable and may vary from person to person.
If your loved one is showing signs of cognitive decline or memory loss, schedule a visit with your doctor. Early detection and diagnosis can help manage symptoms and improve the quality of life for those living with LBD.
Additionally, caregivers and family members of those with LBD should seek support and resources to help navigate the challenges of caring for a loved one with dementia.
At Fox Trail in Princeton, we specialize in memory care and have the patience, understanding, and compassion needed when caring for people with different types of dementia. Contact us for information and see how we can make a positive difference in your loved one’s life.