This week, we attended the Arizona Alzheimer’s Consortium Annual Conference and learned that researchers now define dementia with three major stages, not just two:
o Dementia, which has long been recognized as the time when cognitive abilities are so impaired that one can no long manage one’s own life.
o Mild Cognitive Impairment. This is when one’s memory (or thinking for our LBD loved ones) is impaired but a person can still function fairly well in their daily life. MCI has also been recognized for several years.
o Asymptomatic Dementia. This is a new step just added by researchers. It is where there are no cognitive symptoms but the brain is showing definite changes. The hope is that if such pre-symptomatic patients can be identified, then treatment and prevention may be easier. This makes sense. We all know it is easier to treat a disease before it becomes full blown and out of control.
This information certainly applies to LBD. In fact, people who are at risk for LBD are much easier to identify than those at risk for AD. That’s because several of LBD’s many non-cognitive symptoms often show up earlier in life. Two prime examples of this are Parkinson’s disease and REM Sleep Behavior Disorder (RBD).
Of course, the problem is that so far, treatments are only symptomatic. They help, but they don’t cure. And so we continually hope that our researchers will find a better answer. That’s why it is so important to support clinical trials, donate brains and give money to those groups that support dementia research.