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Good morning all, after 6 months of getting nowhere with my (age 89) FIL's primary care doctor of "he's just getting old, is all" I think I've cracked the code on my FIL's illness. He fits, unfortunately, into all the symptoms of LBD except hallucinations. We have a new doctor group (thank heavens!!) that specializes in geriatrics. They said that an official diagnosis would cost thousands and likely exacerbate my father's dementia---a PT scan, a visit with a neurologist, mental testing, etc. The family agrees, but Mom would like a diagnosis. She thinks that he has something that is curable and that we're just missing something. We have no interest in any of the RXs that are on the market. We just want to know what we're dealing with and its progression.
Can a diagnosis be agreed upon without all of the expensive and extensive testing---maybe just based on observations and notes and an in-house neuro exam? What was your experience with your LO?

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I think many of us have to depend more on observation and self-study than on diagnoses, given the expense of testing and the ugly fact that nothing short of an autopsy can give certainty. Here’s how we are coping with that uncertainty. Before my Mom came to live with us, she had fallen at night going toward the bathroom in her apartment. It was 3 days before anyone found her, and there was severe dehydration and some brain damage due to oxygen starvation. She recovered some functioning in rehab, but we had also noticed before the fall that there were more and more signs of cognitive decline. We were warned by a friend who is a geriatric psychologist to not accept the overall “Alzheimer’s” diagnosis which was bound to occur, but to be aware that there were dozens of dementias, some of which needed very different approaches from what is advised for Alzheimer’s. After she got out of rehab she went through a very bad AL situation and into a very good one. She had a GP who made housecalls but was not that knowledgeable about dementia. She had begun describing what could only be hallucinations and agitation, so her doctor put her on an anti-psychotic, an anti-anxiety and a depression medication. Wow! What a mess! Mom had rarely even taken an aspirin before that so maybe her body was super-responsive to the invaders. Anyway, it did more damage than good, and once we eliminated the meds, she slept all the time. We decided to move her in with us and her new doctor prescribed Namenda. We started with 10 mg, which was too much and increased her agitation. We cut back to 5 mg. once a day at nighttime and it was like a miracle occurred! Now don’t get me wrong, there’s still dementia and it’s still advancing. But my point is that sometimes when you don’t have a diagnosis, it’s useful to read up on the various kinds of dementias, do a checklist of the symptoms to determine which is the best match to the behaviors you are seeing, then become knowledgeable about the various RX’s physicians are likely to try, and get very good at monitoring the response to each and asking about/suggesting others you’ve read about. (I know, you thought that was what doctors did — me, too! Wrong!). I found that as long as I behaved as a fairly well-informed and non-judgmental problem-solving partner (and not as an over-protective, aggressive, critical, and sometimes hysterical relative), I got the same treatment back from the doctors. (Of course, if I did not get that, I did not hesitate to find a doctor with an attitude that worked better for us.). Over time, the troubles with balance, the hallucinations that occur immediately if she misses a dose of Namenda, the depth perception, the amount of activity and conversation that goes on while she’s “sleeping”, the extreme variability from “almost normal” to “almost unable to function”, etc. convinced me it is LBD. It’s not a formal diagnosis because we can’t afford all that testing either. But it’s enough for me to protect her from getting inappropriate medications. While there may come a time to move her to a memory care unit, I will also be able to be proactive with staff about what works with her LBD that is probably vastly different from what works with some of their ALZ patients. Summary: observe, study, and use your best and most loving judgment, with or without a diagnosis. Respect but don’t worship the doctors who are trying to help. And trust your gut. You spend more time with your LO than anyone else and your observations are valuable.
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The family can agree on a diagnosis, but it won't be part of FIL medical record. The docs have to jump through the hoops to avoid liability.

I would encourage you to go through some of the testing however. The testing is primarily to rule out treatable diagnoses. That's imporatnt, even at his age.

Also understand that having a diagnosis of LBD is very different from plain vanilla dementia. There are medications that are commonly given to dementia patients during hospitalization (and otherwise) that can be dangerous, even fatal for LBD patients.

Also, don't totally dismiss medications being used off label for LBD (aricept, namenda, etc.) We found them incredibly helpful for LBD.
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My mother was diagnosed with LBD 8 years ago. The diagnosis was not accurate. The only definitive way to diagnose LBD is to examine the brain during an autopsy. That being said, hallucinations are a major part of the disease. There is no cure and very little treatment for LBD. My mother was actually experiencing an drug interaction. She was also diagnosed with Parkinson’s which turned out to be another drug reaction that was causing tremors. An elderly persons symptoms are varied and getting a diagnosis isn’t always the answer.
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My late husband had hallucinations, but only when he was left alone. He also had CT, MRI, 7 hrs of neuropsychological testing.....which was "inconsistent with Alzheimer's," and that's all he heard. He definitely had dementia of some sort, and as he died of massive stroke at 71 about two years later, it was probably vascular. Now my first and ex husband is in nursing home with what my RN daughter says is Lewy Body dementia. He thinks that my son is building him a new house but doesn't seem to realize that 18 months have gone by. He has good days and bad. I am glad that my kids don't think I should do anything, but my daughter is wearing herself out taking his dog over every day while my son visits maybe once a month! Dementia is dementia, and none of it is curable and they apparently give the same drugs no matter what kind they think it is. I worry about getting it myself, as I am 80 and have one copy of gene for late onset Alzheimer's...which I think is starting every time I can't find my keys! But I'm not falling, which was something both husbands did. And in contrast to them, I am not denying my forgetfulness. I don't think I will object going to memory care as I downsized to an apartment after my 2nd husband's death.
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Arleeda - there is a problem if your keys end up in the freezer not if they are lost at bottom of your purse - FYI a nice lady showed me something that I use all the time with my keys & that is to use one of those snap hook that you can buy at a dollar store - put your keys on it & snap them to your purse strap voila easy to find because of their weight they always go to bottom of your purse & migrate into that little corner that's hard to access [the little devils like to frustrate us ...LOL]

By doing a bit of organisation you can minimise some of the stress of daily life - just a few tweeks here & there [like above] can make your day go smoother
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I was under the impression that only an autopsy could confirm...I could be incorrect.
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You can spend all the money in the world and not have a definite diagnosis. That's the problem with dementia, it's not like a bacteria culture or a antigen test that is conclusive. It's pretty much observational and a guess. There is no medical test for it. Yes, they can MRI the brain and look for spotting and shrinking. But that's not conclusive. Plenty of people have no spotting or shrinkage but exhibit dementia. Plenty of people have a lot of spotting and shrinkage but don't exhibit dementia.
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There is no cure for LBD, but there are drugs that slow the progress. Rivistigmine (Exelon) patches are very helpful aiding cognition and slowing the progress of LBD. You may not be interested in any of the drugs now, but you may be later. Patient's can have serious depression and aggressive behaviors due to hallucinations and delusions. LBD is often diagnosed after showing an extreme reaction to a drug commonly prescribed for AZ patients. But as the folks above said, they don't know for sure until autopsy. The key to good care is a good neurologist or geriatric physician, plus a geriatric psychiatrist versed in LBD. (hard to find).
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After a heart attack in 2001, I was given several prescriptions, one of which was Mevacor, a statin drug. After some months, I began to develop a classic hand tremor in my left hand. (I recognized it because my FIL had had Parkinsons.) Also, I began forgetting things--people would come into my work and ask for their orders, and too often I had zero recollections. I started reading up on the meds, and found that both the tremor and memory loss were associated with the statin. I dropped it immediately (yes, I know they recommend being gradual but I wanted it GONE), and within 2 weeks the tremor had totally disappeared and I could literally feel a cloud lifting from my brain. I had also developed severe upper arm muscle pain, which noticeably improved but took about a year to regain full range of motion. I have had NO recurrance of the tremor, and no more memory issues than probably normal, I still work full time. I am not taking any prescription meds at this time, and have a group of natural supplements which seem to be keeping me going.
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My father-in-law had LBD which was confirmed post-death by a medical school to which my m-i-l had donated his brain. Prior to that it was only an educated guess/Dx. So we had a pretty good theory about what we were facing. Knowing with certainty would not have changed anything, however. You just deal with the symptoms and effects - what you call it really doesn't make that much difference.
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