Grace Smith RN, BSN
What is Vascular Dementia, one may ask, but it is not a specific disease per se, but a wide range of symptoms associated with a decline in memory or other thinking skills severe enough to reduce a persons ability to perform everyday activities.
Vascular dementia can also be described as problems with reasoning, planning, judgment, memory and other thought processes caused by brain damage from impaired blood flow to the brain, which means that part of the brain does not get enough of the blood carrying the oxygen and nutrients it needs because the vessels that carries the blood are narrowed or blocked.
Vascular dementia is the second most common cause of dementia in the elderly, behind Alzheimers, and this usually occurs after a stroke; it is also called post-stroke dementia. Problems with thinking may begin as mild changes that gradually worsen overtime as a result of multiple minor strokes or other conditions that affect smaller blood vessels, leading to increasing damage. Most people don’t suspect Vascular Dementia when they start forgetting things and it becomes problematic over time; it’s very difficult to diagnose so most people remain undiagnosed even though it’s not an uncommon disease, mostly because they don’t go to the doctor when they need to.
The following are symptoms one should look for when your elderly family member start showing signs:
- Hallucination or delusional
- Short term memory
- Trouble concentrating, planning or following through on activities
- Getting lost
- Laughing or crying at inappropriate times
- Trouble managing money
- Loss of bowel or bladder control
- Unable to follow instructions
- Restlessness and agitation
- Unsteady gait
These changes may also happen at the same time as some familiar stroke symptoms, such as a sudden headache, difficulty walking, or numbness or paralysis on one side of the face or the body, start showing up. This is why it is important to discuss with your primary care physician all the different changes that are taking place at any given time.
Certain risk factors such as diabetes, high blood pressure, smoking and high cholesterol are cause of Vascular Dementia; so it’s very important to reduce these risk factors as much as possible. High blood pressure carries the highest risk; It’s a silent disease and being able to detect it requires an awareness of the risk factors and trying to keep them under control. Vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s can both happen at the same, therefore, this gives you more reason to control or limit the cause of it. As with Alzheimers, advance in age is also a major risk factor. Controlling these risk factors may prevent further damage to the blood vessels in the brain, and this, of course, is an important treatment therapy
It is recommended that persons with Vascular dementia get professional test to assess memory, thinking and reasoning; because this disease may go unrecognized for periods of time and especially in our older adults, they may not want to say anything to other family members that they are forgetting stuff, so you have to pay close attention to your elderly parent or family member when you are around them; especially those with high risk factors. Impaired judgment or the ability to plan, organize or make decisions could be one of the first symptoms as opposed to memory loss associated with Alzheimers. Believe it or not, depression commonly coexists with brain vascular disease and can also contribute to cognitive symptoms; therefore, this requires testing. In order to keep this disorder under control, persons with Vascular dementia should:
- not smoke
- eat healthy; have a balanced diet
- maintain a healthy weight
- limit alcohol consumption
Controlling these risk factors can help keep this disease at bay. Vascular dementia is a serious illness, but catching it early and preventing further damage are the best treatment. Always work with your physicians to develop the best treatment plan for the symptoms that your elderly may be experiencing.
Learn as much as you can about the disease, because the more prepared you are, the better you’ll be able to care for your loved one, and better able to adapt to all the changes that may accompany this disease.
Should things get rough or if it become a little bit difficult for you to handle, First Place Home Care is here to help you with your elderly parents or family member; to ease the burden off you, and to provide dedicated and consistent care that enhances and enriches their lives. We serve Fairfield and New Haven counties.
First Place Home Care staff is always available to help; please give us a call at 203-345-1400 or 203-308-8876, anytime.
For more information on Vascular Dementia, see www.alz.org