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What Are the Final Stages of Lewy Body Dementia?

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Caring for a loved one with dementia can be a challenging experience as support and care needs change, especially as the disease progresses. With numerous diseases falling under the umbrella of dementia, Lewy body dementia is one of the most significant, comprised of 7 stages.

The final stages of Lewy body dementia can present with personality changes, severe cognitive decline, and the loss of communication and mobility. For families seeking assistance throughout this challenging time, memory care in senior living communities can provide the safety, support, and individualized care their loved ones need.

What Is Lewy Body Dementia?

Lewy body dementia (LBD) is a debilitating, degenerative brain disease characterized by the presence of abnormal proteins in different parts of the brain. Lewy body dementia affects 1.4 million people in the United States. 

It typically appears in individuals aged 50 and over. The condition affects various aspects of a person’s life, gradually eroding their independence and ability to think, process information, and reason. LBD shares some characteristics of Parkinson’s disease, where if an individual has LBD, they can have dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) or Parkinson’s disease dementia (PDD). 

Treatment for LBD

LBD is a progressive disease with no cure. While medications can help with some symptoms, the average life expectancy is not very long. Treatment for LBD can include medications for managing the following symptoms:

  • Confusion
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Drowsiness
  • Hallucinations
  • Movement problems

Based on individual circumstances, a comprehensive treatment plan can include several therapies, such as:

  • Lifestyle interventions: Prescribes a nutritious diet, exercise, and social activity.
  • Occupational therapy: Includes exercises and activities to help improve skills and maintain abilities.
  • Physical therapy: Includes exercise and self-care to reduce pain and restore mobility. 
  • Speech therapy: Helps with voice volume, poor enunciation, or problems swallowing.
  • Music therapy: Reduces anxiety and can improve mood.

Treating LBD with overlapping Parkinson’s disease is not always successful, as not all LBD patients can tolerate the medications used to treat Parkinson’s. Other modes of treatment, such as physical and occupational therapy, can help manage physical symptoms. 

Symptoms of LBD

Core symptoms of LBD can include the following:

  • Changes in thinking and reasoning ability
  • Fluctuating cognition 
  • Visual hallucinations
  • Sleep behavior disorder 
  • Spontaneous parkinsonism

Stages of Lewy Body Dementia

While every person’s experience with LBD may differ, there are generally seven recognized stages of the disease.

Stage 1

In this initial stage, individuals experience no cognitive decline or disease symptoms.

Stage 2

During this stage, there is mild cognitive decline. Symptoms can include forgetfulness. 

Stage 3

Symptoms of mild cognitive decline become more noticeable to family and friends. Symptoms can include mild memory loss and difficulty concentrating. 

Stage 4

In this stage, mild cognitive decline progresses to moderate. An exam by a healthcare professional can diagnose the disease at this stage. Symptoms can include difficulty carrying out daily activities. 

Stage 5

This stage presents with moderately severe cognitive decline. Symptoms can include severe memory loss and needing help with daily activities.

Stage 6

This stage presents with severe cognitive decline and can last an average of 2.5 years. Symptoms can include loss of ability to speak, changes in personality, and loss of short-term memory. 

Final Stage of Lewy Body Dementia

Stage 7 is the final stage of LBD and can typically last 1.5–2.5 years. It presents with a very severe cognitive decline. During this time, loved ones with LBD lose their ability to communicate and walk. 

Professional assistance may become necessary in the final stages of LBD. These services can give family members much-needed breaks and confidence that their loved ones receive appropriate care.

It’s common for loved ones and families to face difficult decisions during these final stages. Addressing these well in advance can ease some of the stress. Open dialogue and a clear plan can offer peace of mind that a loved one’s wishes will be honored.

Care Considerations for LBD

The caregiving process is possibly the most significant challenge for family members during the final stages of LBD. It’s important to consider several facets of care, including medical support, safety, emotional well-being, and engagement to maximize quality of life. 

Memory Care

Memory care focuses on improving the quality of life for loved ones with dementia. This type of care can provide immense comfort, helping loved ones to live as actively as possible until the end. Care and support also remain flexible to address evolving needs. Memory care services can include:

  • A residential setting
  • Fully furnished apartments
  • Engagement for positive cognitive support 
  • Activities to stimulate brain functions 
  • Activities for walking and balance 
  • Non-pharmaceutical interventions to reduce medication reliance
A doctor examining an older adult man who is experiencing disorientation and confusion.

Personalized Support & Care

Understanding the final stages of Lewy body dementia can help caregivers and family members prepare for disease progression and seek available resources. While LBD is a progressive disease, with memory care and support, loved ones with dementia can live a dignified and quality life. 

For personalized support or information on memory care for dementia, Alzheimer’s, or Parkinson’s disease, contact Fox Trail in Green Brook. 


Written by Barbara Putnam

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