What is Vascular Dementia?
According to the Alzheimer’s Society, vascular dementia is the second most common type of dementia (after Alzheimer’s disease), affecting an estimated 150,000 people in the UK.
There are different types of vascular dementia. In some cases, symptoms between the different types of vascular dementia may be similar. However, sometimes they can differ and progress quite differently.
What are the different types of vascular dementia?
- Stroke-related dementia - Strokes happen when the blood supply to the brain is restricted or stopped altogether. When this occurs, brain cells begin to die. This can happen if a blood clot obstructs a blood vessel or a weakened blood vessel in the brain bursts. These are known as ischaemic strokes and haemorrhagic strokes respectively.
- Post-stroke dementia - In the instance of a major stroke, where a large vessel in the brain is obstructed, lots of brain tissue can die. When this happens, vascular dementia may develop further down the line, although it is not guaranteed. That being said, an individual who suffers from a stroke has a bigger risk of having a further stroke, which raises their risk of developing dementia in the future.
- Single-infarct and multi-infarct dementia - Mini-strokes, or transient ischaemic attacks (TIAs), can result in barely noticeable or temporary symptoms. When these occur, only small areas of brain tissue are starved of oxygen and die. These areas are referred to as infarcts. Single-infarct dementia can happen as a result of just one stroke which happened in an important part of the brain. Multi-infarct dementia, which is more common, occurs when an individual has suffered multiple mini strokes, leading to multiple infarcts in the brain.
- Subcortial dementia - Subcortial vascular dementia happens when the very small blood vessels deep within the brain develop thick walls. When this happens they become stiff and twisted and blood cannot get through them as well. This is sometimes referred to as small vessel disease, and it can result in small infarcts at the base of the brain. Subcortial vascular dementia is thought to be one of the most common types of vascular dementia, the symptoms of which are different to those caused by a stroke.
- Mixed dementia - Mixed dementia is a combination of vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, which lead to a decline in brain function. At least 10% of people with dementia are diagnosed with mixed dementia.
What are the symptoms of vascular dementia?
Symptoms of dementia can vary from person to person. As well as this, how one person copes and presents with these kinds of symptoms can differ from another. In the early and middle stages of vascular dementia a person may experience:
- Problems making decisions or planning
- Difficulties in carrying out a series of steps (such as making a cup of tea)
- Slower thought processing speeds
- Issues with concentration
- Short term memory loss
- Language difficulties
You may also notice that a person with vascular dementia undergoes a change in mood or character. They may be more emotional than normal, or experience periods of apathy, depression, or even anxiety.
Vascular dementia is progressive, so symptoms will worsen over time. However, the speed in which this happens varies and it is not always possible to predict when or how they will progress. A person with vascular dementia is likely to become more confused and disoriented over time. They may also struggle to communicate effectively and will most likely need some level of support with daily activities.
Over time, a person with vascular dementia may become less inhibited. This means that they can sometimes act in unusual or inappropriate aways. In the very late stages, it is likely that a person with vascular dementia will need quite a lot of support with daily activities, such as walking or eating.
Caring for an individual with vascular dementia
If you know someone who has been diagnosed with vascular dementia, you may need help and advice in supporting them. If that is the case, there are a wide range of resources you can access to help you understand the symptoms of vascular dementia, manage them and cope with them.
There may come a time when you need support in caring for a loved one with vascular dementia. At Lovett Care, we offer specialist dementia care ranging from day care and respite to residential and nursing care for individuals living with dementia. If you would like to talk with us about how we can help you support a loved one, please contact us today.