Two people in profile. An older man with a grey beard and blue sweater looks down, and a woman in a white tee looks ahead.

Dementia isn’t one specific disease: it’s a general term used to encompass a series of symptoms which affect a person living with the illness on a daily basis. Symptoms affect a person’s memory, their critical thinking skills, their overall cognitive abilities, and even their personality.

Most people don’t know, however, that there are different types of Dementia. Knowing the nuances of each is incredibly important if someone you know has been diagnosed with a type of the illness, as understanding different types of Dementia will allow you to better recognize what they are living with, allowing you to formulate a response plan that serves them effectively and accurately.

The four types of Dementia are Alzheimer’s, Vascular Dementia, Frontotemporal Dementia and Lewy Body Dementia. At Integracare Home Care, our Caregivers receive up-to-date training on the different types of Dementia from the Alzheimer’s Society of Toronto. This is incredibly important and a fundamental part of compassionate Client care — it means that we can tailor our services to suit individuals based on their specific diagnoses.

Here, we will focus on the second most common, yet one of the lesser-discussed types of Dementia, Lewy Body Dementia (LBD). LBD may also be known as Dementia with Lewy Bodies or Lewy Body disease. We’ll examine the reasons people develop Lewy Body Dementia, its symptoms and the current treatment options that are available to people living with Lewy Body Dementia.

How Does Lewy Body Dementia Develop?

Lewy Body Dementia is a progressive type of Dementia. It’s caused by the build-up of abnormal alpha-synuclein protein deposits (also known as Lewy bodies) that form in masses inside of the brain’s nerve cells. These protein masses block communication between brain cells and are what causes Lewy Body Dementia.

If these Lewy bodies first appear in the part of the brain responsible for mental responses, it is categorized as Lewy Body Dementia.

If these proteins first present themselves in part of the brain that controls movement, a Parkinson’s Disease Dementia diagnosis may be given.

The build-up of alpha-synuclein proteins causes the depletion of certain neurotransmitters in the brain, including dopamine and acetylcholine; this causes the physical and mental symptoms of LBD.

Dopamine Production Is Obstructed

The neurotransmitter dopamine helps the brain transmit messages that control our muscles and movement. For those living with Lewy Body Dementia, a mass of Lewy Bodies will obstruct the creation and transmission of dopamine, making physical movement challenging — causing tremors, shaking, muscle rigidity and stiffness.

Acetylcholine Production Is Impeded

The neurotransmitter acetylcholine operates in the part of the brain that is accountable for cognitive behaviours and responses. When alpha-synuclein protein deposits amass here, they disturb and impede acetylcholine production and transmission; this causes the trademark symptoms of Dementia, where those living with the illness experience challenges with thought, memory, and processing.

It’s presently not fully understood why these clumps of protein form. In some situations, LBD presents itself alongside Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease; this is known as ‘mixed Dementia.’

A medical professional holding up an MRI

How and When Might Lewy Body Dementia Be Diagnosed?

While there are no current reasons or immediate answers for what causes Lewy Body Dementia in individuals, evidence suggests that some demographics are more prone to developing the disease.

Family History: If Lewy Body Dementia or Parkinson’s disease runs in the family, individuals are at a greater risk of developing LBD.

Gender: Men are more likely than women to receive a Lewy Body Dementia diagnosis.

Age: People aged 60 and up are more at risk.

Other Diagnoses: Other health challenges may also be what causes Lewy Body Dementia to develop: People living with Parkinson’s disease or Rapid Eye Movement, also known as REM, and those with variants in the three genes APOE, SNCA and GBA may develop LBD.

Further ambiguity lies in the diagnosis of the illness. There is currently no single test to diagnose LBD. Instead, medical professionals proceed by ruling out other illnesses and diseases. Doctors might assess a person’s physical neurological abilities by testing their gait, posture and the rigidity of their body and limbs. They will also test their mental abilities by conducting an MRI alongside physical and neuropsychological tests to formulate a diagnosis.

What Are the Symptoms of Lewy Body Dementia?

Despite being the second most common type of Dementia, Lewy Body Dementia is often misdiagnosed in its early stages. Lewy Body Dementia symptoms are like those found in psychiatric illnesses, other types of brain disease, and as traits of Parkinson’s disease.

Some of the common symptoms are:

Cognitive Challenges

Persons with Lewy Body Dementia may experience cognitive difficulties similar to those living with Alzheimer’s, such as confusion, memory loss, and a low attention span — which may lead to moments of exhaustion.

Physical Challenges

In its early stages, Lewy Body Dementia can be misdiagnosed as Parkinson’s, as some of its indicators present the same way. Slowed movements, limb tremors, tense or rigid muscles and difficulties walking may arise.

Other physical symptoms may present themselves due to the nervous system being affected by Lewy Body Dementia. This can affect a person’s blood pressure, causing irregular drops in pressure as the person stands — making them dizzy, sweat, and experience challenges with digestive and bladder processes, leading to bowel issues and urinary incontinence.

Senses Might Be Distorted

One of the more distressing and recurring Lewy Body Dementia symptoms is sensory hallucination. Those with LBD might experience visual, olfactory, sound, or touch distortions and illusions, with visual hallucinations being the most commonly reported. This symptom is one of the reasons why Lewy Body Dementia might be erroneously diagnosed as a psychiatric illness.

Disturbed and Erratic Sleep

Another of the Lewy Body Dementia symptoms is disturbed and distressing bedtimes if those living with the illness experience rapid eye movement (REM). REM is a sleep disorder that may make people thrash or lash out as they try to physically act out their dreams while sleeping.

Mental Health Challenges

Mental health might also be affected for those living with LBD. They may become apathetic, lacking motivation or seemingly indifferent to their surroundings, or depressed; depression is also categorized as another of the Lewy Body Dementia symptoms.

Lewy Body Dementia varies from other forms of Dementia in three different ways:

  • The sensory and hallucinogenic symptoms.
  • The rigidity and stiffness of movements and lack of fluid motion.
  • The varying degrees of mental capacity. People living with Lewy Body Dementia might be alert and present for one minute, then quickly become confused.

Two seniors are looking out a French door. They're both holding white coffee mugs.

The Stages of Lewy Body Dementia

Once someone has received a Lewy Body Dementia diagnosis, it’s essential to understand the symptoms and how these symptoms unravel throughout the stages of the illness.

For most, the life expectancy with Lewy Body Dementia spans between five to eight years. Still, some individuals can expect a life expectancy with Lewy Body Dementia from two to 20 years.

As discussed, receiving an accurate Lewy Body Dementia diagnosis in the early stages can be challenging due to its overlap with other diagnoses.

As with most illnesses, LBD symptoms vary between individuals, with the speed at which the illness advances varying based on a person’s general health, age, and the severity of their symptoms. These factors will also affect someone’s life expectancy with Lewy Body Dementia.

The Early Stages

In the early stages, Lewy Body Dementia symptoms may be mild, allowing individuals to function normally. In some cases, people have reported hallucinations at night with bouts of drowsiness during the day. As LBD advances, mild forgetfulness and memory loss may begin to occur.

The Middle Stages

It’s around the middle stage that those living with LBD receive an accurate diagnosis. Here, people may experience tremors and forgetfulness — making it challenging to fulfill Activities of Daily Living (ADL) alone. It’s around the middle stages that those living with the illness are at a high risk of trips or falls — making consistent supervision vital.

The Middle to Late Stages

Here, people with LBD will require help with eating, drinking and self-care. They’ll generally experience significant memory loss, confusion, and delusions.

The Late Stage

Communication and physical acts will be limited later in the illness. To live comfortably and safely, round-the-clock care will be a necessity.

At Integracare Home Care, we highly recommend seeking assistance from professional Caregivers as soon as a Lewy Body Dementia diagnosis has been made; doing so allows the person living with the illness (and their loved ones) to understand the diagnosis and the treatment options that are available to them.

We offer compassionate, dignified in-home care for Clients living with Dementia in the GTA. Our dependable Caregivers understand the intricacies of caring for those with Dementia. Further, having a trained eye monitoring symptoms of Dementia will help loved ones navigate the stages of the illness as they arise, pivoting and adapting our personalized care to fulfill your loved one’s needs every step of the way.

Treatment Options in Addition to Medication for Lewy Body Dementia

For those living with Lewy Body Dementia — as with other types of Dementia — there is currently no cure. However, some treatments can help alleviate symptoms and slow the advancement of the illness.

In addition to pharmaceutical medication for Lewy Body Dementia that serves as a Lewy Body Dementia treatment, physical and occupational therapies — which we proudly offer at Integracare Home Care — can help alleviate the physical symptoms of Lewy Body Dementia, giving relief and comfort to those when they need it most.

Massage Therapy

Massage therapy from a Registered Massage Therapist (RMT) is a fantastic Lewy Body Dementia treatment.

Physically: Massage therapy can help reduce the pain and rigidity in the joints and limbs that come with LBD.

Mentally: A specialized massage from an RMT can help calm an agitated individual while reducing feelings of anxiety and stress and improving their quality of sleep.

Emotionally: A gentle massage can help Lewy Body Dementia Clients receive a compassionate, human touch, which has much restorative value, especially if one is suffering.


Physiotherapy may also be administered as a Lewy Body Dementia treatment in lieu of, or in addition to, medication for Lewy Body Dementia. Physiotherapy has been shown to help those experiencing balance issues (common with LBD), gait challenges and Parkinson’s symptoms.

With physiotherapy, therapists will help facilitate a range of motion in the limbs, which helps our Clients retain a wider range of movement — and the consequential independence it provides — for as long as possible.