Jane Fisher, has written this article especially for our website.
Dementia with Lewy Bodies (LBD) is a form of dementia which has symptoms that are similar to Alzheimer’s Disease and Parkinson’s Disease. It affects 10-15% of people living with dementia. In the early stages, and as the disease progresses, hearing voices is common. This can be disorienting and confusing, both for the person living with dementia, and for their friends, families and carers. It is very important how you react and deal with these voices.
Early stages of Lewy Bodies
In the early stages of Dementia with Lewy Bodies, there can be moments of confusion. More than is normal in terms of natural aging. Everybody has moments of “where did I put my keys” as they get older, but with dementia, these episodes are more frequent. One symptom that is indicative of LBD, is hallucinating and hearing voices. These voices are not normally frightening or scary. They feel like part of every day. It is common for the hallucination to be of animals and small children. The person living with dementia, will often react to these hallucinations, for instance, answering questions that the child has asked, or bending down to give the dog a treat. There is no harm in this.
Being in the moment
If you are a friend, family or a carer, how you react to these voices are important. Unless there is a danger in terms of safety, it is often best just to let the person living with dementia get on with the moment. This is not the same as playing an imaginary game with a child – but simply accepting that this is the way that it is. Trying to explain get a person with LBD to face reality about the voices, can make them upset – especially if there is no way to change the situation.
Living with voices
There is currently no cure for LBD, or indeed any form of dementia. There are however medications that can help alleviate some of the symptoms, such as the tremor. Many doctors prescribe an SSRI – a low-dose antidepressant to help stabilise mood. If the voices and hallucinations aren’t disruptive to everyday life, or distressing, then generally they are not treated.
A diagnosis of dementia with Lewy Bodies, may be upsetting, but it is important to remember that the symptoms of hearing voices aren’t normally frightening. It is perfectly possible to live with auditory hallucinations and maintain a good quality of life.