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The importance of identifying the correct form of dementia

When someone in Hawaii shows signs of dementia, it's common to assume it may be Alzheimer's disease. Sometimes what's assumed to be Alzheimer's is another form or dementia known as Lewy body dementia, or LBD. Receiving a correct diagnosis is important because there are key differences in how each of these conditions is treated. With medications, for instance, people with LBD might respond better to certain dementia drugs than individuals with Alzheimer's.

Patients with LBD may also respond poorly to medications meant to control behavior and movement for people with Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease. The resulting side effects, which may be the basis for a medical malpractice claim if there were clear oversights during diagnosis attempts, are sometimes dangerous and permanent. Part of the confusion may be because of the many forms of dementia although symptoms often provide clues that could help with the diagnosis.

AD is characterized by progressive memory loss, depression or anxiety, difficulty with abstract thinking, time and place disorientation, and changes in personality and behavior. However, people with LBD may experience unpredictable levels of cognitive ability, visual hallucinations, a sleep condition in which dreams are physically acted out and extreme sensitivity to medications.

Some LBD patients will show signs of movement problems first, which may lead to a mistaken diagnosis of Parkinson's. If symptoms include a shuffling or rapid gait, disorientation in familiar locations, and inappropriate laughing or crying, a patient may have vascular dementia. Another possibility is frontotemporal dementia, a condition characterized by inappropriate or compulsive behavior.

If doctor or hospital errors that led to a diagnosis of the wrong form of dementia resulted in serious adverse reactions to medications and other treatment efforts, a lawyer may be able to determine if there is sufficient cause to pursue legal action. Negligence that contributed to misdiagnosis might involve failure to perform certain tests, misinterpretation of results and not fully considering patient symptoms that were evident during initial examinations. Affected patients may be entitled to compensation for medical expenses, emotional distress and long-term care needs.

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