Dementia is used to refer to all kinds of memory loss as we age, but there are different kinds of dementia, each with different causes, and (to an extent) some variation in their symptoms. It’s important to know the differences so that, if you or a loved one is diagnosed with a particular kind of dementia, you know what to expect. So let’s go over what you need to know about vascular dementia, including what it is and some of the most common symptoms associated with this particular disease.
Defining Vascular Dementia
The first step to understanding vascular dementia is what separates it from other kinds of dementia. While certain types of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s, are caused by brain cells dying one by one, vascular dementia is caused when there’s a problem getting enough blood to the brain.
What Causes Vascular Dementia?
The two most common causes of vascular dementia are stroke and blood vessels that have become partially or completely blocked, or have been chronically damaged.
Who’s at Risk for Vascular Dementia?
As with other forms of dementia, one of the most common risk factors for vascular dementia is age. It’s unusual (but not unheard of) to show symptoms of vascular dementia before the age of 65, with the risk of developing vascular dementia (or any other kind of dementia) substantially increasing by the time one reaches their 90s.
Anyone who has had a history of heart disease, including atrial fibrillation (a kind of arrhythmia), strokes, or ministrokes (such as transient ischemic attacks, or TIAs) are also at an increased risk of developing vascular dementia.
Other common risk factors include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, diabetes, smoking, and atherosclerosis (which is when cholesterol and/or plaque build up in the arteries, thereby restricting blood flow).
Symptoms of Vascular Dementia
The symptoms of vascular dementia are much like the symptoms of other forms of dementia, including memory loss, confusion, difficulty concentrating, difficulty making decisions, restlessness and agitation, as well as depression or apathy.
Other common symptoms of vascular dementia include an unsteady gait and the need to urinate suddenly and/or frequently, potentially even losing the ability to control when they urinate.
Tips for Preventing Vascular Dementia
If you have a family history of vascular dementia, you’ll want to take extra steps to take care of yourself and stay healthy. While there is no sure way to prevent vascular dementia, you can benefit from developing and maintaining the same healthy habits that can help protect you from other forms of dementia: keeping your blood pressure at a healthy level; eating a low-sugar diet to control diabetes if you’ve been diagnosed, or preventing diabetes if you have not been diagnosed; quit smoking if you’re a smoker, if you’re not a smoker, keep up the good work; exercise regularly; and try to maintain healthy blood cholesterol levels.
If you have a loved one who is already exhibiting symptoms of vascular dementia, or any other kind of dementia, and you can’t look after them 24/7, we can.
Summer is typically travel season. Whether you’re flying to a far-off destination or just taking a quick road trip to a great camping ground one or two states over, it’s perfectly understandable to want to bring mom and/or dad.
But what if the loved one you want to bring has dementia? How do you navigate all the hazards of travel with the added burden of someone who may have a tendency to become anxious in unfamiliar settings – or worse, get lost?
Making the Decision
The first step is to determine whether it’s a good idea to travel with a loved one who has a degenerative disease. They may still enjoy traveling in the early stages of the disease, but as it progresses, they’ll need a higher level of supervision and will be more likely to become confused and anxious in new situations. So the first thing to determine is the level of care your loved one needs and whether they can handle the stress of travel.
One thing that can help in determining whether they’re fit to travel is deciding where to go. Generally speaking, travelling to far-off destinations with a different language and different customs can be a lot of fun when you’re young, but to those suffering from dementia, it can be confusing and anxiety inducing. If you do decide to take your loved ones on vacation this summer, make sure it’s to a destination that was familiar to them before they got sick.
The #1 tip for any successful trip is to plan ahead and prepare for all possibilities. Not only should you make sure you and your loved one are equipped with the proper clothing for all kinds of weather, but you should also plan on bringing plenty of water, their favorite snacks, and all the medications they’ll need for the duration of the trip. In addition to your travel itinerary, make sure to keep a schedule of when they need to take each medication and have the proper medication on hand at the proper time. This will mean planning ahead to take it with you if you intend to do some sightseeing or go for a hike.
In addition to packing all the necessary medications, you should keep an updated list of emergency contacts and copies of important documents.
If you will be staying in a hotel, alert the staff to your needs before you arrive so they can be prepared to help you out during your stay. Keep in mind that new locations can trigger wandering in patients with dementia as they seek out the familiar, so stay alert and take advantage of programs like the MedicAlert® + Alzheimer’s Association Safe Return®.
Timing is Everything
Finally, make sure to travel during the time of day when your loved one is at their best. People with dementia often experience increased anxiety during certain periods of the day, usually around sunset, hence the term “Sundown Syndrome.” Know when your loved one is at their best and when they tend to be at their worst and plan accordingly. During the times of the day that tend to be tough for them, be sure to have something familiar and comforting on hand that you know will help reduce their anxiety.
Here at Stillwater Senior Living, we treat our residents like family. Our apartments include studio, one bedroom, and two bedroom suites. They are designed with security features, maximum accessibility, and include walk-out patois with a full range of amenities for the entire family.
CONTACT US today for more information and a tour of our beautiful state-of-the-art community.