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How Does Vascular Dementia Affect The Family

Research Into The Cause Of Vascular Dementia

Dementia Affects the Family | By Debra Johnston, MD

Vascular dementia is the second most commonly diagnosed type of dementia, and may account for 15 – 20% of all cases. Vascular dementia is caused by chronic reduced blood flow to the brain, usually as a result of a stroke or series of strokes. It can often coexist with Alzheimer’s disease.

Stroke, small vessel disease, or a mixture of the two can cause vascular dementia. Most commonly there is a blockage of small blood vessels somewhere in the network of arteries that feeds the brain. Blockages may be caused by plaque build up on the inside of the artery wall, or by blood clots which have broken loose. Clots can form as a result of abnormal heart rhythms, or other heart abnormalities. Also, a weak patch on an artery wall can balloon outward and form an aneurysm, which can burst and deprive brain cells of oxygen.

It is estimated that about 50% of cases of vascular dementia result from high blood pressure, which can lead to a major stroke or a series of strokes and a build up of brain damage over time. Less common causes of vascular dementia are associated with autoimmune inflammatory diseases of the arteries such as lupus and temporal arteritis, which are treatable with drugs that suppress the immune system.

An inherited form of vascular dementia known as CADASIL is caused by a mutation on the Notch3 gene. This is a very rare form of dementia and only affects families carrying the Notch3 gene mutation.

How Does Dementia Affect The Brain And Everyday Life

The impacts of Dementia and Alzheimers on Activities of Daily Living make it difficult for those with the disease to complete simple activities that we often take for granted, such as bathing, doing laundry or cleaning. It is important to remember that not every person suffering from dementia will look dishevelled and unkempt, and different stages of the disease will alter the way in which the person in question will complete the task.

What Causes Younger Onset Dementia

Many different types of dementia can affect younger people. Each type has its own symptoms and is caused by a specific type of change in the brain. Some causes of early onset dementia are:

  • Alzheimers disease
  • problems with blood flow to the brain
  • deterioration to the front part of the brain
  • chronic overuse of alcohol over many years

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Why Does Dementia Have An Impact On Everyday Life

Because its a progressive and degenerative brain disease, the effects of dementia impede messages that are transmitted in the brain. These messages help people execute day-to-day activities that we often see as mundane and take for granted. Here are the following functions that dementia affects, and the ADL this alters.

Questions To Ask Your Specialist

Understanding Vascular Dementia
  • Will my symptoms get worse?
  • How quickly will it happen?
  • Is there anything I can do to slow it down?
  • Are there any treatments that can help me with my symptoms?
  • Do I need scans or blood tests?
  • How often will I have appointments with you?
  • What services are available to help me?
  • Who can I talk to about care at home?
  • Are there local support groups that I can contact?
  • Is there anything else I should think about?

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How Is Vascular Dementia Diagnosed

In addition to a complete medical history and physical exam, your healthcare provider may order some of the following:

  • Computed tomography . This imaging test uses X-rays and a computer to make horizontal, or axial images of the brain. CT scans are more detailed than general X-rays.
  • FDG-PET scan. This is a PET scan of the brain that uses a special tracer to light up regions of the brain.
  • Electroencephalogram . This test measures electrical activity in the brain
  • Magnetic resonance imaging . This test uses large magnets, radiofrequencies, and a computer to make detailed images of the brain.
  • Neuropsychological assessments. These tests can help sort out vascular dementia from other types of dementia and Alzheimer’s.
  • Neuropsychiatric evaluation. This may be done to rule out a psychiatric condition that may resemble dementia.

What Is Alzheimers Disease

Alzheimers disease is the most common form of a group of brain diseases called dementias. Alzheimers disease accounts for 60% to 80% of dementia cases. Other forms of dementia include vascular dementia, mixed dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies, and frontotemporal dementia.

Alzheimers disease, like all dementias, gets worse over time and there is no known cure. Nearly 6 million Americans are living with Alzheimers disease. Alzheimers disease destroys brain cells causing problems with memory, thinking, and behavior that can be severe enough to affect work, lifelong hobbies, and social life. Eventually, it can affect ones ability to carry out routine daily activities. Today, it is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. It is the fifth leading cause of death for those aged 65 years and older.

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How Is Dementia Diagnosed

To start your diagnosis process, you need to visit a GP. They will run a preliminary check and ask you questions about how you manage your daily activities. To ensure all other possible causes of memory loss are ruled out, the GP may also organise blood tests.

If your symptoms are mild, the GP may refer you to a specialist diagnostician, like a neurologist or a psychiatrist who specialises in old-age conditions. They too may request additional tests like brain scans or complex memory tests.

Following these assessments, you will typically receive your diagnosis and receive treatment if needed.

Telling People About Your Dementia Diagnosis

How does dementia affect the individual and the caregiver?

Communication is an important part of any relationship. When you’re ready, tell others about your diagnosis.

It’s also good to tell them what you may have trouble with, such as following a conversation or remembering what was said.

You may find that some people treat you differently than they did before.

This may be because they don’t understand what dementia is or are afraid of the effect on your relationship.

Try to explain what your diagnosis means and the ways in which family and friends can help and support you.

The health or social care professional who helped with your care plan, your GP or a dementia support worker at your local Alzheimer’s Society can help with this if you’d like them to.

Let your friends and family know that you’re still you, even though you have dementia.

Tell them you’re still able to enjoy the activities you did before diagnosis, though some may take longer than they used to.

Read more about activities for dementia.

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Prevention Of Vascular Dementia

The most effective way to prevent the development of vascular dementia is to make sure you address any cardiovascular risk factors you may have. Research shows that the same things that are good for the heart and arteries seem to be good for the brain.

Some things you can do to reduce your risk:

  • Donât smoke â or quit if you do
  • Maintain your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar within recommended limits
  • Sustain a healthy diet, such as the Mediterranean diet
  • Limit alcohol consumption
  • Stay socially engaged and active
  • Identify and treat depression

Trouble Adapting To The Environment

A sudden change in surroundings could really make a person hard to adapt.

This is an impact of dementia wherein a person does not enjoy changes as much as what he or she was used to.

Small changes could incite negative emotions in the person who is suffering from dementia, and changes from the environment can also result in confusion and feelings of being frightened frequently.

A constant change in ones environment can also result in anxiety attacks.

A person who is having a hard time concentrating, thinking, and expressing ones emotions might not accept or totally reject adaptation to the environment.

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Get The Information You Need

Youre going to have lots of questions. You may wonder whats going to happen and worry about not being able to do things for yourself. Finding out as much as you can will help to ease your fears. Theres a lot of information to take in when youre first diagnosed, so dont be afraid to go back and ask questions, even if its weeks or months later. Its important that you understand whats happening and why.

Sit down and write a list of all the questions you have and take it to your next appointment.

Planning For The Future

Dementia is a heartbreaking disease that affects the whole ...

Planning early makes it easier for someone with younger onset dementia to manage their financial, legal and medical affairs now and in the future.

If you have been diagnosed with younger onset dementia, it is important to make important decisions while you still can and while you are legally competent to sign any documents.

Things to think about include:

  • your living arrangements into the future
  • who can have access to your financial accounts
  • having joint signatures on all financial accounts
  • arranging when and how you will access your finances
  • talking to a financial adviser
  • sorting out superannuation, health and income insurance
  • writing or updating your will

If you have been diagnosed with dementia, its important to nominate a trusted person to manage your affairs in the future. You can do this through an Enduring Power of Attorney .

A financial EPA enables a nominated person to look after your financial affairs if you become unable to do so. A medical EPA covers only medical decisions. The laws regarding EPAs vary between states and territories, so it’s important to seek legal advice before the agreement is completed, or if you are moving interstate.

Some states also have medical guardianship . This allows someone to choose a person to make medical decisions for them. For more information on guardianship and administrators, visit the My Aged Care website.

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Dementia Affects The Whole Family

Carrie Steckl earned her Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology with a Minor in Gerontology from Indiana University Bloomington in 2001.She has spent over…Read More

I recently had the pleasure of speaking to a group of high school seniors about dementia. These were no ordinary students they were all members of an advanced placement psychology class taught by one of my favorite teachers when I was in high school. I knew they were already well-versed in basic psychology and brain anatomy, but I wasnt sure how much they had discussed dementia, either in class or at home.

What in the world would teenagers want to know about dementia? And perhaps most importantly, why should they care? Granted, I knew darn well that they should care about dementia the challenge was making this truth relevant and meaningful to them.

Its easy to see why society as a whole should care about dementia. According to the Alzheimers Associations 2013 Facts and Figures Report, an American develops Alzheimers disease every 68 seconds, and more than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimers disease right now. One in three older adults dies with Alzheimers disease or another dementia, and Alzheimers disease is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States. This year alone, Alzheimers disease will cost the United States $203 billion that number is expected to rise to $1.2 trillion by 2050 if a cure is not found.





Symptoms And Disease Course

Symptoms differ depending on what part and how much of the brain is affected, and can overlap with those of other types of dementia. Symptoms are likely to be more gradual and less dramatic in multi-infarct than in post-stroke dementia. For example, in multi-infarct dementia a gradual decline in some aspects of speech and language may be noticed, whereas immediately following a stroke there can be a sudden change in speech.

Vascular dementia does generally progress, but the speed and pattern of cognitive decline, motor skills slowing, and mood changes can vary. Some individuals may experience memory loss, whereas others may exhibit changes primarily in mood and behavior.

Like all dementias, individuals in later stages will show overall cognitive changes and will depend on others for care. Symptoms common in both post-stroke and multi-infarct type dementia can include:

  • confusion and difficulty problem-solving
  • changes in mood including loss of interest in regular activities
  • trouble finding the right word
  • motor symptoms including clumsiness and slow or unsteady gait disturbance.

Family caregivers may find it difficult to know how to provide help when symptoms are so variable. Getting a definitive diagnosis will make it easier to provide care now and in the future.

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What Is Younger Onset Dementia

Younger onset dementia is used to describe any form of dementia that develops in people under the age of 65. Dementia has been diagnosed in people in their 50s, 40s and even in their 30s. It is sometimes called early onset dementia.

Younger onset dementia is similar to other types of dementia in many ways. The same problems generally occur, but the disease can have a different impact on a younger person because they are more likely to be employed full time, raising a family or financially responsible for a family.

Symptoms Of Vascular Dementia

What is vascular dementia?

Symptoms of vascular dementia depend on what part of the brain is affected and to what extent. Like Alzheimer’s disease, the symptoms of vascular dementia are often mild for a long time. They may include:

Symptoms that suddenly get worse often signal a stroke. Doctors look for symptoms that progress in noticeable stages to diagnose vascular dementia. Alzheimer’s, by comparison, progresses at a slow, steady pace. Another clue is impaired coordination or balance. In vascular dementia, problems walking or balancing can happen early. With Alzheimer’s, these symptoms usually occur late in the disease.

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Caregiving In The Early Stages

Although most of your loved ones immediate medical needs can be managed on their own in the early stages, you may need to assist with tasks associated with memory or problem-solving. You may need to remind them of their doctors appointments and to set up the next appointment, along with taking their medications on time and getting refills as needed. You may need to assist them in managing their finances and keeping up with social and work obligations. At times, they may also need help remembering places, people, words, and names. In the early stages, you will want to encourage them to:

  • Maintain their independence
  • Establish a routine to delay the disease from worsening

Why Do Family Caregivers Care

Family caregivers may be motivated to provide care for several reasons: a sense of love or reciprocity, spiritual fulfillment, a sense of duty, guilt, social pressures, or in rare instances, greed. Caregivers who are motivated by a sense of duty, guilt, or social and cultural norms are more likely to resent their role and suffer greater psychological distress than caregivers with more positive motivations. Caregivers who identify more beneficial components of their role experience less burden, better health and relationships, and greater social support.

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Differences Between Alzheimers And Vascular Dementia

All types of dementia involve some level of memory loss. But not all memory loss means someone has dementia. In a previous article, we discussed the difference between senior moments and dementia and the importance of discussing memory loss with family members and medical professionals.

People with vascular dementia sometimes have a slightly different type of memory loss than people with Alzheimers. A doctor might ask a patient to remember three words: apricot, table, and penny. After a distraction, the patient might not remember the words, but if the doctor prompts them with cues, like fruit or coin. they may respond correctly.

Another difference between these two types of dementia is the path of decline. People with Alzheimers often experience a gradual, continuous decline. However, the decline of vascular dementia is more like stairs after a stroke there is a plateau, followed by another step.

But again, its not always easy to detect when small strokes happen, so this decline might be difficult to track.

Tests For Vascular Dementia

Understanding dementia with behavioral disturbances ...

There’s no single test for vascular dementia.

The tests that are needed to make a diagnosis include:

  • an assessment of symptoms for example, whether these are typical symptoms of vascular dementia
  • a full medical history, including asking about a history of conditions related to vascular dementia, such as strokes or high blood pressure
  • an assessment of mental abilities this will usually involve several tasks and questions
  • a brain scan, such as an MRI scan or CT scan, to look for any changes that have happened in your brain

Find out more about the tests used to diagnose dementia.

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Stage : Mild Cognitive Decline

Stage 3 is where dementia or Alzheimers disease symptoms can become more noticeable to friends and family. This stage will not have a major impact on your loved ones everyday life, but signs can include:

  • Trouble with complex tasks and problem-solving
  • Memory loss and forgetfulness
  • Asking the same question repeatedly
  • Diminished work performance
  • Denial

Causes Effects Of Vascular Dementia & Its Treatments

Dementia is a health condition that makes a person less active and inept to perform several day-to-day activities. This article discusses the causes, effects and possible treatments of vascular dementia.

Dementia may be related to several factors and no specific reasons for dementia have been found yet. The affected persons brain functions deteriorate with time. In this condition, the victims undergo problems related to remembering, planning and even coordinating things and movements. Vascular dementia is a type of dementia and the second most occurring type of dementia, the first being Alzheimers disease. Records have stated that this condition affects millions of aged people all over the world.

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