- There will be medications, some for the LBD and some to deal with those physical problems.
- Once present, Lewy body disorders WILL progress. There will likely be some times of apparent improvement, and it may take many years, but over time, the PlwLBD will become weaker and less competent.
- The time will come when a single caregiver will not be able to cope safely. The PlwLBD will become too helpless or the caregiver’s health will fail. More than half the time the latter is the case.
- LBD is a terminal disease. No one recovers from it, and the last year or so is usually physically and emotionally difficult for both the PlwLBD and their caregiver.
- Because of the many physical problems that accompany LBD, there is a very good chance that a PlwLBD will go to the emergency room, probably several times, and possible be hospitalized as well.
Start with your pharmacist. It is easy to assume that all pharmacists are the same, but like doctors, they aren’t. Ask around and find one who is familiar with LBD and how it reacts with various drugs. Once you find one that you can trust, use this person for all of the PlwLBD’s medications. This may mean that you will have to drive out of your way, but it is worth it. Always ask this person about any over-the-counter drugs the PlwLBD takes as well.
In the same way, search home care staff and residential facilities well before you need them. Be aware that if you choose to go the home care route altogether, you need to plan on 24 hour staffing. Although you can often get by with just a few hours a week to start, this will change. Eventually, a family caregiver should not be providing more than a third of the care, preferably less. There are too many other things that the family caregiver has to do, besides the physical care.
One caregiver reported that when they did a pre-search of residential facilities for their loved one, the residential staff was surprised. They are used to people needing their services right away. Don’t let such an attitude stop you from searching out the best care you can find for the price you can afford. (Residential care is usually less expensive than full time home care, BTW, but it is still expensive.) However, if you do your searching before the need arises, you can be much more objective. You are also less likely to choose something less than you want just because it is available. There are several good sources of information to use when searching out residential placement, including both of our books.
Don’t neglect financial and legal issues. Find an elder care attorney and get all the legal papers drawn up while the PlwLBD can still make their wishes known. Again there are many resources available to guide you in this, including our books.
In most communities, there are several, or even many, hospice services. Again, search out the right one out well before you need it. Make sure it is one that understands the drug and behavioral issues involved as well as the usual dementia-related problems. And remember, the PlwLBD does not have to be within a week or a few days of dying. Take advantage of this service as early as you can.
Face these decisions as tasks that need to be done for the future. Once they are done, and plans are made, you can forget about them until they are needed. Then at “crunch time” when you are already stressed, it will be easier to make informed, caring choices.
For information about Lewy body disorders, read our books:
A Caregivers’ Guide to Lewy Body Dementia
Managing Cognitive Issues in Parkinson’s & Lewy BodyDementia
Helen and James Whitworth are not doctors. As informed caregivers, they share the information here for educational purposes only. It should never be used instead of a physician's advice.