5 Tips For Caring for a Senior with Vascular Dementia
Dementia is a widely known cognitive impairment condition that affects over 14% of seniors aged 70 and up. Most seniors, especially those residing in memory care living communities, know dementia all too well since most have firsthand experience with it.
But what’s not common to many seniors and their families is the various types of dementia that can affect their elderly loved ones.
Unfortunately, Alzheimer’s disease is not the only type of dementia that you should prevent your senior loved one from developing. There’s another type of dementia that’s also prevalent in seniors, but unlike its other forms, this one does not show memory problems during its early stages.
This disease is called vascular dementia, which affects 5% to 10% of seniors and is considered the second most common type of dementia in seniors worldwide. Here is everything you need to know about it, including its early signs, prevention, and, more importantly, how to manage it.
What is Vascular Dementia?
Vascular dementia refers to a type of dementia that affects one’s thinking and reasoning skills due to a decreased blood flow in the brain. It is named “vascular” since the main problem is the blockage of blood vessels in the brain, thus reducing blood flow and killing the brain cells in the process.
This vascular cognitive impairment usually happens to seniors as a result of a stroke or multiple mild strokes. Other causes of vascular dementia can also include:
- Endocarditis (infection in the heart caused by a virus)
- Amyloid angiopathy (protein build-up in the brain’s blood vessels, which can cause bleeding).
- Diseases that increase your risk of strokes include diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, and obesity.
- Unhealthy lifestyle habits like alcohol drinking, smoking, and improper diet.
Furthermore, vascular dementia often occurs together with other types of neurological diseases, like Alzheimer’s and Lewy body dementia.
Early Signs and Symptoms of Vascular Dementia
Seniors affected with vascular dementia experience different signs and symptoms depending on the severity of the blood vessel damage and the part of the brain that has been affected.
Unlike most types of dementia, most seniors with vascular dementia experience problems in thinking, speed, and perception as their first and earliest symptom.
Only a small number of affected individuals have memory problems as their primary indicator of vascular dementia. However, almost all seniors with the disease usually start exhibiting symptoms only after a stroke. Some of the other early warning signs of vascular dementia include:
- Increased memory loss
- Trouble with focus, concentration, and organization
- Declining ability to analyze, such as deciding what to do next or solving a problem.
- Urinary incontinence (frequent urge to urinate).
- Poor balance and mobility
Another thing worth noting about vascular dementia is the fast downward progression of symptoms. Unlike Alzheimer’s, most cases of this illness don’t have a gradual manifestation of symptoms. Rather, it happens through significant changes and increasing severity of the physical and mental symptoms.
5 Tips for Managing Vascular Dementia
Vascular dementia may be a deteriorating and challenging disease to handle. But that does not mean that your affected loved one can’t enjoy a quality life in their memory care living community anymore.
Like all diseases, there are many ways to manage vascular dementia and slow down its progression. Additionally, all treatment care plans for vascular dementia aim to target the underlying disease that causes blood vessel damage.
As a result, this can help manage the symptoms of the disease and prevent it from worsening your loved one’s condition. This can include speech, physiotherapy, and occupational therapy. It also involves big lifestyle changes to help your overall health thrive despite the illness. Some examples include:
1. Following a Healthy Diet
Eating a balanced and healthy diet is one of the best ways to avoid chronic conditions that can exacerbate your senior loved one’s vascular dementia. For example, you can introduce them to a low-salt diet to prevent high blood pressure or heart-healthy meals to lower their risk for stroke.
Moreover, consuming healthy foods also helps in managing the dementia symptoms itself. Plus, it can improve your loved one’s physique and help them reach a healthy weight.
2. Finding Ways to Stay Active
Most elderlies who have vascular dementia may already experience difficulties moving due to their previous stroke episode or the paralysis that comes with it. However, it’s still important to include physical activities into their daily routine to improve overall health.
Some senior-friendly exercises your loved one can try include:
- Water aerobics
- Yoga and tai-chi
- Walking with a companion.
- Simple exercises with a physical therapist for bed-ridden patients.
- Knee lifts, sitting exercises, and sit-to-stand activities.
3. Quitting Bad Vices
Unhealthy habits like smoking and excessive alcohol drinking do nothing but contribute to worsening the symptoms of vascular dementia. In addition, it can also cause several illnesses that can increase your loved one’s risk of developing this vascular impairment.
So, the best way to go forward is to leave all the bad vices behind and start embracing a healthy daily routine.
4. Managing Stress
Studies suggest that chronic stress plays a role in the development or progression of symptoms of a senior affected with dementia. Additionally, its physical and mental effects can also negatively impact the overall health of the elderly.
So help your loved ones manage their stress by introducing them to mindfulness meditation, breathing exercises, or words of affirmation. These relaxing activities can also help seniors maintain healthy blood pressure, cholesterol, and cardiovascular system.
5. Maintaining Social Interaction
Social interaction is an essential part of every treatment care strategy for older adults with dementia. Being surrounded by friends and loved ones can help create a strong support system for the affected seniors. Plus, it can positively contribute to the senior’s happiness and outlook in life.
So make sure to shower your loved one with lots of love by visiting them regularly in their memory care living community. Spend some quality time by doing their favorite activities with them, sharing a meal, or watching a movie that they love.