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A home healthcare worker, a mature woman of Pacific Islander ethnicity, helping a senior man with a walker enter his house through the front door. She is holding the walker, directing him to watch is step.

Is It Parkinson’s, or Dementia with Lewy Bodies?

Each year, thousands of American seniors are told they have Parkinson’s disease, but they do not. For a number of these people, the true diagnosis is a similar but not as well-known disease: dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB).

Dementia with Lewy bodies affects as many as 1.3 million Americans, according to the Lewy Body Dementia Association (LBDA). And that estimate could be too low, considering that a number of people who’ve been incorrectly diagnosed with Parkinson’s still have not been given an accurate diagnosis.

Signs and symptoms for the two diseases can be very similar, in particular as they progress, because they exhibit the same root modifications in the brain.

Here are the symptoms you should be aware of, according to the LBDA:

  • Intensifying dementia – Increasing confusion and reduced attention and executive function are frequent. Memory impairment may not be obvious during the early stages.
  • Frequent visual hallucinations – These are commonly complex and detailed.
  • Hallucinations of other senses – Touch or hearing are probably the most typical.
  • REM sleep behavior disorder – This can appear decades before the onset of dementia and Parkinson’s.
  • Frequent falls and fainting – Includes unexplained loss in consciousness.
  • Other psychiatric disruptions – These differ from patient to patient.

Is the correct diagnosis really critical? Diagnosing DLB quickly and properly may possibly mean the difference between life and death, according to Howard I. Hurtig, M.D., Chair, Department of Neurology, Pennsylvania Hospital and Elliott Professor of Neurology. Incorrectly treating DLB can not only result in serious adverse reactions, but could even exacerbate symptoms and prevent accurate symptom management.

Much of the confusion among doctors is due to the fact that both Parkinson’s disease and DLB come under the exact same umbrella of Lewy body dementias.

An important distinction is in the “one-year rule” associated with cognitive symptoms. Patients with Parkinson’s disease ordinarily do not present cognitive issues until at least one year after mobility symptoms start. DLB is the exact opposite, with cognitive symptoms appearing first for at least one year.

Endeavor In-Home Care offers Mesa respite care and dementia care services for the surrounding areas. Contact us at 480-498-2324 to arrange a free home care assessment or to learn more about the way we can help your loved one with dementia, Parkinson’s disease, or any other condition common in aging.