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Lewy-Body Dementia, Alzheimer's & Parkinson's: Similarities and Differences

What is the Difference Between Dementia and Alzheimer’s? Exploring Similarities and Differences

The Kensington White Plains hosted the event, “Lewy Body Dementia, Parkinson’s, & Alzheimer’s: Similarities and Differences,” this spring for family members and loved ones impacted by these diseases.

Our distinguished speakers included Dr. Keith N. Fargo, Julia Wood, Donna Sperlakis, and Claire Day, who shared their expertise, covering everything from the latest FDA-approved treatments like Leqembi to the unique challenges faced by caregivers.

This session gave enlightenment and support to those navigating these complex conditions. Keep reading for an opportunity to learn and understand the differences and similarities between these conditions.

Our promise is to love and care for your family as we do our own.

What is Alzheimer’s disease and how is it different from dementia?

Alzheimer’s disease is a specific form of dementia, characterized by its distinct symptoms and progression patterns from dementia. 

It’s important to understand that while all Alzheimer’s is dementia, not all dementia is Alzheimer’s.

Key characteristics of Alzheimer’s disease

Alzheimer’s disease is caused by the abnormal build-up of proteins in and around brain cells (neurons). One of the proteins is amyloid, which forms plaques around neurons. The other protein is tau, which forms tangles within brain cells.

Key characteristics include memory loss, confusion, difficulty with language, disorientation, and mood swings.

Progression and the 3 stages of Alzheimer’s

  • Early: Mild memory loss and confusion, trouble organizing and planning, and personality changes.
  • Middle: Increased memory loss and confusion, difficulties recognizing faces of friends and family, significant changes in sleep patterns, and possible delusional behavior.
  • Late: Severe memory disturbances and physical difficulties, significant personality changes, and need for extensive, round-the-clock care.

Differences between Alzheimer’s disease and dementia

Typically, Alzheimer’s disease is caused by abnormal clumping of proteins in the brain.

However, dementia can be caused by various factors, such as vascular issues, strokes, Parkinson’s disease, alcoholism, brain damage, and more.

While memory loss is common in both Alzheimer’s and dementia, other cognitive impairments can be more prominent depending on the type of dementia:

  • Vascular Dementia: Often presents with problems in planning, judgment, and managing tasks.
  • Lewy Body Dementia: Characterized by visual hallucinations, sleep disturbances, and Parkinson’s motor symptoms.
  • Frontotemporal Dementia: Notable for changes in personality and behavior, and difficulties with language.
  • Parkinson’s Disease Dementia: Includes symptoms like slowed movement, tremors, and rigidity, alongside cognitive changes.

What is Lewy body dementia? 

Lewy body dementia (LBD) is a complex neurodegenerative disorder caused by abnormal proteins called alpha-synuclein in the brain, known as “Lewy bodies.”

Similar to Alzheimer’s, LBD causes memory loss, but with a stronger effect on executive function and problem-solving skills. 

LBD is also characterized by pronounced fluctuations in attention and alertness, which can vary significantly within a single day.

One of the trademarks of the disease is visual hallucinations, often detailed and recurring, including seeing animals and people, and Parkinson-related motor symptoms, such as rigid muscles.

Diagnosing LBD can be challenging because of its overlap of symptoms with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, however, the fluctuating nature of LBD’s symptoms can lead to misdiagnoses. 

Lewy body dementia symptoms

  • Fluctuations in cognition throughout the day
  • Visual hallucinations that are frequent and recurring
  • Parkinsonian motor symptoms, such as rigidity, slowness of movement, tremor, and postural instability
  • REM sleep behavior disorder, such as acting out dreams violently
  • Sensitivity to certain medications, such as antipsychotics, which can worsen symptoms

What is Parkinson’s disease dementia?

Parkinson’s disease dementia (PDD) is a form of dementia that can develop in the later stages of Parkinson’s disease, which is a progressive neurological disorder known for motor symptoms such as tremors, stiffness, and slowness of movement.

Approximately 50-80% of people with Parkinson’s disease may develop dementia, with the risk increasing with age and duration of the disease.

This type of dementia typically emerges after the onset of Parkinson’s disease, distinguishing it from other forms such as Lewy body dementia, where cognitive symptoms often appear simultaneously before motor symptoms. 

Causes of Parkinson’s disease dementia and impact

PDD is caused by the same underlying neurological changes as Parkinson’s disease, primarily involving the loss of dopamine-producing cells in the brain.

Additionally, the presence of Lewy bodies is a common feature in both Lewy body dementia and Parkinson’s disease dementia.

The areas in the brain affected by PDD include those involved in memory, attention, and executive function.

How is Parkinson’s disease dementia different from Lewy body dementia?

Both diseases share many symptoms because of the presence of Lewy bodies. 

However, in Parkinson’s disease dementia, motor symptoms become noticeable much sooner than cognitive decline, whereas in LBD, both cognitive and motor symptoms often occur together at the same time.

Symptoms of Parkinson’s disease dementia

  • Impaired executive function: Difficulty in planning, organizing, and problem-solving.
  • Attention and concentration difficulties: Fluctuations in attention and increased distractibility.
  • Memory impairment: Particularly affecting working memory and retrieval of information.
  • Visuospatial dysfunction: Problems in interpreting visual information.
  • Hallucinations and delusions: Although less common than in LBD, can occur, particularly in advanced stages.

The latest advances in Alzheimer’s treatment

Recent advancements have offered new hope and possibilities for managing Alzheimer’s disease.

  • Leqembi: Lecanemab, known as Leqembi®, is an FDA-approved IV infusion treatment specifically targeting early-stage Alzheimer’s. It works by targeting and reducing amyloid beta plaques.
  • Ultrasound treatments: These treatments focus on ultrasound waves to open the blood-brain barrier, allowing better drug delivery to clear toxic proteins from the brain.
  • Improvements in diagnosing: Early detection, such as amyloid-PET scans, allows for better imaging to detect amyloid and tau proteins.

For other types of dementias, treatments are more symptomatic, focusing on managing cognitive and motor symptoms, such as cholinesterase inhibitors and medications to address mood swings or hallucinations.

Expert memory care at The Kensington White Plains

At The Kensington White Plains, located in New York, we specialize in providing exceptional assisted living and memory care services, catering specifically to individuals with Alzheimer’s, dementia, Parkinson’s, ALS, and multiple sclerosis.

Our memory care neighborhoods, Connections and Haven, are designed to provide comprehensive and compassionate memory care across all stages of memory-impairing diseases. 

From the early onset to more advanced stages, our tailored approach ensures every resident receives the personalized care and support they need.

We invite you to discover the difference at The Kensington White Plains. RSVP for our upcoming events to learn more about memory care.

Contact The Kensington White Plains or book a tour to see how we can provide a safe, nurturing, and enriching environment for your loved one.

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