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Our Mind Matters: Lewy Body Dementia

A monthly article brought to you by Senior Services Memory Support Programs

Dementia with Lewy Body might not be something you have ever heard of. This is likely because it has symptoms similar to both Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease making it very challenging to get a diagnosis. So how can we tell if it’s Lewy Body Dementia and not another form? Let’s take a look.

This type of dementia is caused by the buildup of tiny protein deposits, also known as Lewy bodies, in the brain. They are so tiny that they can only be seen by microscope. These deposits affect how the brain works, causing it to slowly fail.

This type of dementia affects behavior, sleep, body movements, and the ability to reason and make decisions.


Here are some possible symptoms:

  • Shifts in thoughts with changes in attention and alertness
  • Inability to think clearly, make decisions and pay attention
  • Visual hallucinations that repeat and are often very detailed
  • Depression
  • Unusual sleepiness during the day
  • Staring off into space for long periods of time
  • Difficulty moving e.g. trembles, jerks, shuffles when walking
  • Sleep problems e.g. not able to fall asleep, acts out dreams physically by walking, talking, kicking
  • Sudden changes in blood pressure, body temperature, ability to swallow

Doctors might diagnose a person with Parkinson’s disease dementia when the correct diagnosis is actually Lewy Body dementia. Technically, the difference between these two conditions lies in how quickly the cognitive difficulties and hallucinations develop in relation to the movement issues. In Lewy Body dementia, the cognitive difficulties and hallucinations develop much sooner in the disease course than in Parkinson’s disease dementia, sometimes even prior to the movement difficulties. Because of the similarities, many in the medical community view these diseases as related and that they fall along a continuum of Lewy Body disorders.

When you are starting to notice memory changes, seeking early detection is key. Senior Services offers an array of memory support programs including confidential memory screenings to obtain a cognitive baseline, early memory loss programs, and educational classes along with support from Seasons Adult Day Health Services. If you or someone you know is experiencing increasing changes with their memory and could benefit from additional services, please contact Amy Sheridan, Family Support and Activity Manager, at 989-633-3764.

Check out our section, Our Mind Matters, next month as we will discover more about Frontotemporal dementia.

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