Help for sufferers from dementia

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LIKE many people who are suffering from one form of dementia or another, I read with interest any article that appears about this dreaded disease that affects so many people and their carers.

However, I was a little disappointed to see that another form of the condition, Dementia with Lewy Bodies (DLB) was not mentioned in the Worksop Guardian article by Mr Rod Kersh on Friday 20th January.

DLB is the second most frequent cause of age-related neurodegerative dementia with around 130,000 people in the UK thought to suffer from this little-known devastating disease (Lewybodies being microscopic protein deposits associated with the death of cells in the brain).

The main symptom of DLB is dementia or progressive decline in memory and thinking serious enough to interfere with normal daily activities. This can be mistaken for Alzheimer’s Disease or Parkinson’s Disease. Two thirds of patients with DLB experience detailed and convincing visual hallucinations, and find that their abilities fluctuate daily or even hourly. They fall asleep very easily by day, and have restless, disturbed nights with confusion and nightmares. They also may faint, fall or have funny turns, something which is not common in early Alzheimer’s Disease.

Many sufferers experience problems with attention and alertness, often have spatial disorientation and experience difficulty with planning ahead and mental activities.

DLB, named after the doctor who first identified them in 1942, are tiny spherical protein deposits found in nerve cells. Their presence in the brain disrupts its normal functioning interrupting the action of important chemical messengers. They are also found in the brains of people with Parkinson’s Disease - a progressive neurological condition that affects movement.

Many people who are initially diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease later go on to develop a dementia that closely resembles DLB.

DLB is a progressive disease which means that over time the symptoms will become worse. In general, DLB progresses at about the same rate as Alzheimer’s Disease, typical over several years.

In my case, at the age of 65 and following a career as a fire fighter and a journalist with the Worksop Guardian I was made aware by my friends and colleagues that I needed to see my GP.

A series of extensive tests at the Bassetlaw and Hallamshire Hospitals led to a diagnosis of DLB.

Thankfully, I received help and medication before it was too late. And I would like to say a big thank you to the specialists at these institutions and my own GP who continue to monitor my progress and try to make sure that my condition, if I cannot expect to be cured, can at least help me to cope with the dementia and all that it entails.

For more information contact www.lewybody.org or telephone: 0131 473 2385

Stuart Bussingham

(via email)