Lewy body dementia is the second most common progressive, degenerative dementia after Alzheimer's disease. Also known as dementia with Lewy bodies (protein deposits), it develops in the nerve cells in the areas of the brain that involve memory, thinking, and motor control. Once Lewy body dementia develops, the patient's mental abilities slowly begin to decline.
One of the most defining effects of Lewy body dementia is the experience of vivid visual hallucinations. Patients report seeing animals, shapes, and people who are not truly there. Hallucinations affecting the other senses, such as the olfactory and auditory systems, are also possible, though less common. Other symptoms include decreased attention and alertness, confusion, drowsiness, apathy, and Parkinson's-like effects, such as slow movements, shuffled walking, rigid muscles, and uncontrollable tremors. Furthermore, the disease can cause defects in the functioning of the autonomic nervous system, such as with a patient's pulse, blood pressure, digestion, and ability to pass bowel movements.
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Use simple instructions when interacting with a person with Lewy body dementia. This is particularly important for family members and carers of patients, or anyone else who interacts with the patient on a regular basis. It is very easy for patients to become disoriented, confused, scared, frustrated, or angry, so making things as simple as possible for them is crucial for them to function as normally as is feasible and avoid aggravating symptoms. Break down instructions into simple, short steps, and try to focus on the successes instead of failure. It's also important not to rush the person into a response. Allow them time to process and try on their own before presenting the next instruction. Speak slowly and clearly while maintaining eye contact, and utilize gestures, objects, and other cues whenever possible. This can be as simple as pointing to an object. Committing to this style of communication will make life easier and more relaxed for both parties involved.
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