Vascular dementia is a general term describing problems with reasoning, planning, judgment, memory, and other thought processes caused by brain damage from impaired blood flow to your brain. Vascular dementia is common following a stroke.
What is Vascular Dementia?
Vascular dementia is a common post-stroke problem which affects cognitive function or thinking abilities. Vascular dementia makes it difficult for you to process information. This can lead to memory loss, confusion, decreased attention span and problems performing everyday activities.
Whether a stroke affects your thinking and reasoning depends on your stroke's severity and location. Vascular dementia also can result from other conditions that damage blood vessels and reduce circulation, depriving your brain of vital oxygen and nutrients.
Factors that increase your risk of heart disease and stroke—including high blood pressure, high cholesterol and smoking — also raise your vascular dementia risk. Controlling these factors can help lower your chances of developing vascular dementia. The risk for vascular dementia increases with every stroke.
Depending on the location and size of damaged brain area, the onset of dementia following a stroke differs from person to person. Left-hemisphere strokes are commonly associated with vascular dementia. Symptoms of vascular dementia include:
Can Vascular Dementia be treated?
Controlling conditions that affect the underlying health of your heart and blood vessels can sometimes slow the rate at which vascular dementia gets worse, and may also sometimes prevent further decline. Depending on your individual situation, your healthcare professional may prescribe medications to:
Consult a healthcare professional to determine if and what medications are appropriate.
Tips for managing vascular dementia
If you have vascular dementia you may become more dependent on family members or caregivers for assistance with activities of daily living due to physical and behavioral changes. Here are some practical strategies to manage the symptoms of vascular dementia:
If you have severe vascular dementia may not be able to maintain financial responsibilities or make medical decisions. A Medical Power of Attorney is a legal document that designates a person to make healthcare decisions for you if you are unable to. Living wills and advance directives are also legal documents that outline your preferences if you are unable to communicate them.
Caring for someone with dementia
Providing care for a person with dementia is physically and emotionally demanding. Feelings of anger and guilt, frustration and discouragement, worry and grief, as well as social isolation are common.
Learn as much about the vascular dementia as you can. Ask your primary care doctor or neurologist about good sources of information. Your local librarian also can help you find good resources.
New situations, excess noise, large groups of people, being rushed or pressed to remember, or being asked to do complicated tasks can cause anxiety. As a person with dementia becomes upset, the ability to think clearly declines even more.
Paying attention to your own needs and well-being is one of the most important things you can do for yourself and for the person in your care.