The word ‘dementia’ is often linked hand-in-hand with Alzheimer’s Disease, but it’s really a descriptive word for a group of symptoms with many causes. By definition, dementia describes the impairment of at least two brain functions such as memory, judgement, or reasoning skills. According to the WHO, 47.5 million people have dementia worldwide, with another 7.7 people diagnosed every year.
Alzheimer’s Disease is estimated to cause 60-70% of all dementia cases, which is why it receives most of the attention. But Vascular Dementia is the second most common type of dementia in older people. Because the symptoms are similar, it’s often mistaken for Alzheimer’s Disease even though the causes are very different.
Damage vs. Decline
While Alzheimer’s is a degenerative disease, Vascular Dementia often comes as the result of brain injury. Traumatic events like a stroke or tumor impair blood flow, which in turn causes damage to surrounding cells. As a result, the location of the trauma within the brain has a major impact on dementia symptoms. That’s why memory loss isn’t as pervasive among Vascular Dementia patients as it is with Alzheimer’s patients and why difficulty speaking or understanding speech is common with Vascular Dementia and relatively uncommon with Alzheimer’s Disease.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Unlike Alzheimer’s Disease, which can only be definitively diagnosed after death, it is possible to screen for Vascular Dementia. Both the American Heart Association and the American Stroke Association say these criteria suggest Vascular Dementia is causing cognitive impairment:
- Neurcognitive testing confirms dementia.
- There’s MRI evidence showing a recent stroke or other blood vessel changes.
- There’s no evidence other factors are contributing to cognitive decline.
In addition to stroke victims, people with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or other risk factors for heart disease are at high risk for developing Vascular Dementia. Currently there is no effective treatment, but proper care can help curb the progression of symptom. If you’re at high risk, Vascular Dementia is just one more reason to be on the lookout for the signs and symptoms of stroke.
Generations Home Care Can Help
If you know someone battling the effects of Vascular Dementia, you understand how much it can interfere with everyday tasks. Symptoms like confusion, disorientation, and vision loss make independent living difficult and potentially hazardous. As a result, many Vascular Dementia sufferers require in-home care.
If you know someone in the Phoenix area who could use a little help, contact Generations Home Care today at 602-595-HOME (4663). We’ll conduct a free in-home assessment and create a customized plan of care that fits your needs and your budget. Vascular Dementia can be devastating, but with the right help it doesn’t mean the end.