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What are the 7 Stages of Lewy Body Dementia?

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An older adult male holding his head, showing signs of disorientation and confusion

Dementia affects millions of people around the world, and Lewy body dementia (LBD) is one of the most common types. Unlike other types of dementia, LBD is characterized by the accumulation of abnormal proteins in the brain, which can cause cognitive, physical, and behavioral symptoms that require specialized care.

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with LBD, knowing the stages and symptoms of this disease can help you better understand what to expect and how to manage the condition. The 7 stages of Lewy Body Dementia involve increasing cognitive and physical decline.

Dementia can be a difficult condition to live with and care for, but with the right support and care, we can help people with LBD maintain a good quality of life for some time.

What Is Lewy Body Dementia?

Lewy body dementia (LBD) may not be as well-known or as talked about, but it’s just as serious and debilitating as the other forms of dementia. In fact, it’s the second most common type of dementia after Alzheimer’s disease.

LBD is caused by abnormal protein deposits in the brain called Lewy bodies. These deposits interfere with the brain’s neurotransmitters, which affects a person’s cognitive and motor abilities. LBD shares some of the same symptoms as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, such as memory loss, confusion, and tremors. However, it also has unique symptoms like visual hallucinations, sensitivity to medication, and sleep disorders.

LBD can affect anyone, but it’s more commonly found in people over 50 years old. It’s still unclear what causes these protein deposits to form, but experts believe genetics, environmental factors, and lifestyle could play a role.

Like all forms of dementia, LBD is often split into stages. These levels can vary, and the length of time your loved one may spend in each stage isn’t set. This is just a general timeline that can help you understand what your loved one is going through.

Stage 1: No Cognitive Decline

During the initial stages of LBD, patients may not show any signs of cognitive decline. Technically, we are all in stage 1, as it refers to people with no dementia, too. For LBD specifically, however, some scans may be able to pick up early suggestions that protein deposits are already forming in the brain’s nerve cells, hinting at cognitive changes in the future.

Stage 2: Very Mild Cognitive Decline

Patients move into this stage when they start showing minor changes in cognitive abilities. It’s rare for a doctor to diagnose dementia at this stage, but you may notice signs such as your loved one forgetting names or repeatedly misplacing familiar objects.

 Please remember that some memory problems are normal parts of aging. Just because you or your loved ones forget something occasionally, it’s not necessarily a sign of dementia.

Stage 3: Mild Cognitive Decline

Stage 2 and stage 3 can be hard to tell apart, and it’s still unlikely your loved one will exhibit enough symptoms for a doctor to make a firm diagnosis. If your loved one does have dementia, it can even be too early to determine what type, but signs may include:

  • Increase forgetfulness
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Trouble working
  • Getting lost
  • Forgetting words while talking

You may begin to notice these signs at this stage.

Stage 4: Moderate Cognitive Decline

Stage 4 is where a diagnosis may finally be made and is officially considered “early dementia.”

LBD’s diagnosis may be complicated since it shares so many symptoms with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. To determine if your loved one has LBD, doctors look for the following 3 characteristics:

  • Trouble with memory or attention that seems to come and go
  • Visual hallucinations
  • Parkinsonisms, such as tremors or muscle stiffness, similar to Parkinson’s disease

A diagnosis of “probable” LBD requires dementia symptoms and at least 2 out of 3 of these characteristics. 1 out of 3 characteristics paired with dementia symptoms is considered “possible” Lewy body dementia.

Stage 4 typically lasts 2 years, and treatments focus on helping symptoms.

Stage 5: Moderately Severe Cognitive Decline

Stage 5 is the beginning of mid-stage dementia, and a person with LBD typically requires assistance with their basic needs, referred to as their activities of daily living (ADLs). You may need to help them eat and bathe at this stage or seek out living communities that offer specialized care. Other symptoms may include:

  • Major memory deficiencies
  • Confusion
  • Losing track of time and where they are
  • Hallucinations
  • Paranoia
  • Difficulty moving

Stage 5 is shorter, on average, around 1.5 years.

Stage 6: Severe Cognitive Decline

At stage 6, your loved one won’t be able to achieve their ADLs without help. Almost all symptoms from the previous stages will have worsened. They may be bedridden and have trouble communicating while also dealing with major memory loss.

Stage 6 may last, on average, 2.5 years.

Stage 7: Very Severe Cognitive Decline

The final stage of Lewy body dementia is referred to as late-stage dementia and lasts around 1.5–2.5 years. Your loved one will require constant care, and they will be unable to communicate or walk.

A group of older adults sitting around a table, eating and enjoying breakfast while smiling and chatting with each other

Comfort & Care for Our Loved Ones

Dementia is a harrowing condition we wish no one would ever have to live with. People dealing with it go through different stages, and it can be challenging to understand what the next step could be. But you have the power to support your loved ones, and you’re already doing your part by learning more about this disease and its stages.Landmark Crossing at Southgate understands the warmth needed to watch over a loved one with dementia. If you’re interested in exploring our dedicated memory care program, schedule a visit today.

Written by Angela Clark

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