Battling Dementia With Lewy Bodies

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The Law Of... raising awareness of Dementia with Lewy Bodies

Dementia with Lewy Bodies (DLB) is estimated to affect more than 100,000 people in the UK, and was thrust into the public eye when Robin Williams sadly ended his own life after being diagnosed in August 2014.

Dementia with Lewy Bodies (DLB) is estimated to affect more than 100,000 people in the UK

Jennifer Turnbull, Associate Solicitor for Simpson Millar's Care Homes team, explores the symptoms and impact of this tragic disease.

Defining Dementia With Lewy Bodies

Known as a type of dementia that shares symptoms with Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease, Dementia with Lewy Bodies is caused by an abnormal protein found inside brain cells called Lewy bodies.

Whilst researchers aren't currently aware of why these bodies appear or how they contribute to the development of dementia, the disease has been linked to 2 factors:

  • Low levels of specific chemicals that carry messages between nerve cells
  • A loss of connections between nerve cells, which consequently die

Some common symptoms of DLB include:

  • Issues with mental abilities – some individuals might experience problems with their attention span and staying alert
  • Depression – it's possible for individuals to develop depression
  • Hallucinations and delusions – in early stages of this condition, sufferers may develop visual or auditory hallucinations, which may occur on a daily basis
  • Problems with movement – around two-thirds of individuals with DLB have trouble with their movement and this becomes progressively worse over time
  • Restless, disturbed sleep – sufferers usually experience restless nights, where they even begin acting out their nightmares, often putting their bed partners at risk of injury

Experiencing DLB First-Hand

Jennifer recently spoke to Kathryn Green, who passionately began raising awareness of Dementia with Lewy Bodies after her Uncle was diagnosed with the condition in January this year. Kathryn discusses the devastating effect the disease has not only on the individual, but also on their family.

"I honestly thought that Dementia was something that happened naturally and to everybody in their older years; my presumption, however, couldn't have been further from the truth. After briefly working for the NHS' Memory Protection Team in 2013, I soon learned and realised just how cruel this disease was, affecting millions of all ages with so many variations and stages."

"My Uncle is 66 years old and is already suffering from complex health needs including Parkinson's disease, Angina, Diabetes, and Arthritis. In January 2016, he was given a diagnosis of emerging Dementia with Lewy Bodies, which was a devastating blow."

"My Uncle was very aware that this could happen. He openly told the family that if it came to that stage he would end his own life. Another example of this tragedy is the recent case of the actor, Robin Williams, committing suicide following his diagnosis of DLB."

"As he had Parkinson's disease, my Uncle was losing the physical ability to maintain his regular hobbies, including photography, using computers, gardening, DIY, reading, walking, and driving. However, the mental interest and enjoyment he experienced in relation to these activities never disappeared. It seemed that now that he had the diagnosis of emerging Dementia with Lewy Bodies it was assumed that all he wanted to do is have the odd, random 'elderly activity' and sit in an armchair all day watching television!"

"The journey for those with Dementia doesn't stop with their diagnosis. We all need love, support, physical activity, mental stimulation, and the encouragement to be independent on the good days, in all walks of life. On the other hand, we need to have patience, understanding, and empathy on the bad days."

"Since February 2016, I have been actively campaigning to try and raise awareness of dementia, and get the UK to invest in better facilities as well as promote independence for our loved ones."

"I have created a petition online, which was published by Parliament: UK to invest in Dementia Villages and provide more Carers in Nursing Homes, and encourage people to join the cause."

"The UK Government announced that by 2020 our country will be the best, Dementia-friendly country in the world."

Not only has Kathryn created a petition online, but she has also recently appeared on Sky News to discuss this extremely important topic.

It is likely that Dementia will affect, or has already affected, someone we all know. It's clear that the Government wants to raise awareness of Dementia, and also help people with Dementia have a better quality of life – let's hope their 2020 vision will become a reality.


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