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What You Need To Know About Vascular Dementia

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Posted on 15th April 2021.

Whether you, your loved one, or someone you care for have recently been diagnosed with vascular dementia, we know that it can be a particularly difficult time and you may have many unanswered questions about the condition.

It could be that you don’t know much about the condition, or perhaps you want to know more so that you can best support your loved one; with the right education and support, you can support your loved one living with vascular dementia to continue to live happily at home with a good quality of life.

We understand that trying to navigate your way through endless resources to learn more about vascular dementia can be daunting; that’s why we have put together a comprehensive guide on what you need to know about the condition.

What is vascular dementia?

Vascular dementia is the second most common type of dementia (the most common being Alzheimer’s), with around 150,000 living with the condition in the UK. There are many types of dementia, and the term refers to a set of symptoms related to cognitive impairment, including memory loss, difficulty thinking, concentrating, problem-solving and speaking. Vascular dementia is caused by a reduced blood supply to the brain, which can cause severe damage to cells in the brain.

It is quite common for people to experience ‘mixed dementia’, which means two or more types of dementia co-existing. For example, someone could live with both vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s, which means that they are likely to experience more memory loss and lack spatial awareness.


Symptoms of vascular dementia

People often associate dementia with memory loss, which is common in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, but it is unusual to find this in the early stages of someone living with vascular dementia. Depending on the individual, those living with vascular dementia can also experience the physical impacts of a stroke, too.

Early symptoms of vascular dementia can include:

  • Slowed thought processing
  • Difficulty planning and organising
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Noticeable changes to mood

Later symptoms can include:

  • Feelings of disorientation and confusion
  • Memory loss
  • Noticeable changes to personality and behaviour
  • Low mood or a lack of interest
  • Limited mobility and difficulty with balance
  • Incontinence


What are the seven stages of dementia?

Vascular dementia is a progressive condition, meaning that you or your loved one will notice the symptoms more over time as they begin to impact your everyday life.

Vascular dementia is a condition that can affect many people in many different ways, but the progression can be explained broadly in seven stages:

  1. At this point, the person functions without any noticeable signs or symptoms.
  2. Very mild decline, slower thought processing and difficulty planning.
  3. Begins to experience difficulties in concentration, becomes anxious and more forgetful, family becomes aware of something unusual.
  4. Travelling to new places becomes more daunting, can begin to withdraw from friends and family, finds difficulties with managing finances.
  5. Needs help with everyday routines such as personal care and meal preparation, can become disorientated with time and place.
  6. May become incontinent and needs support with eating and using the toilet, can sometimes only remember details of their earlier life.
  7. Very little ability with speech and communication, often loses psychomotor skills such as walking, requires regular and more intensive support.


Stroke and vascular dementia

Vascular dementia and stroke are closely linked, when someone experiences a stroke, the blood flow is reduced or stopped to a part of the brain, and the subsequent damage can sometimes be a trigger for vascular dementia. The following things can also be a cause vascular dementia:

  • A stroke (post-stroke dementia or single-infarct dementia)
  • Narrowing of the small blood vessels in the brain (subcortical vascular dementia)
  • Lots of mini strokes (multi-infarct dementia)

Approximately 20% of people who experience a stroke are diagnosed with vascular dementia within six months. For many, this may be quite a daunting statistic, which is why it’s important to monitor your loved one’s symptoms if they’ve experienced a stroke. If their symptoms don’t improve over time, this could indicate signs of vascular dementia, so please contact your GP if you’re concerned.

Support for vascular dementia

When someone is diagnosed with vascular dementia, it’s not uncommon for their surrounding friends and family to step in and support their loved one with both physical and emotional support. However, we understand that caring for a loved one can be a tremendous responsibility, and it may not be a viable long-term solution if you have childcare and work commitments – but you need not worry.

There are numerous options available to you and your loved one, whether you need some visiting care to help instil a daily routine, or you think you’d benefit from a live-in carer who will be there to support you day and night. Just because someone has a diagnosis of vascular dementia, that does not mean that they need to leave their beloved home or have to make compromises to their lifestyle. With a helping hand, you and your loved ones can live well with vascular dementia.

For more information, please call 0330 029 8699 or request a callback and we will call you.

Alice Clough Campaign & Content Executive
About Alice joined the Helping Hands team in January 2021. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and Film Studies and writes for her own blog. Read Alice's full profile