When a senior begins to show signs of a mental decline, they are often assumed to be developing Alzheimer’s. While Alzheimer’s is a leading cause of memory loss and cognitive decline, there are other types of dementia to consider.
If you notice your senior loved one is struggling with their memory, reasoning, judgment, and planning during the holidays, it may be time to schedule an appointment with their physician. An examination will get them a step closer to a diagnosis if dementia is the cause.
If your senior loved one has had a heart attack or stroke, their physician may look into vascular dementia. Vascular dementia is common in stroke and heart attack seniors due to reduced blood supply to the brain during these medical emergencies.
As a caregiver or family member of a senior that has been diagnosed with vascular dementia, understanding the symptoms can be beneficial. Learning the signs of vascular dementia will help you determine when professional memory care is needed.
How does a senior develop vascular dementia?
When the brain’s blood vessels are damaged, it reduces their ability to supply the brain with nutrition and oxygen. When the brain doesn’t receive enough nutrition and oxygen, seniors will develop problems with their memory, thinking, and reasoning.
The most common causes of vascular dementia include the following.
While a stroke doesn’t necessarily mean your loved one will develop vascular dementia, it does increase their risk. When a stroke does lead to dementia, it is typically because it causes an artery in the brain to become blocked.
High blood pressure can weaken blood vessels and lead to bleeding into the brain. Another time bleeding in the brain may occur is when there is a buildup of protein in small blood vessels, weakening them.
Small blood clots can prevent oxygen from reaching brain tissue. These clots are sometimes referred to as Transient Ischaemic Attacks.
Symptoms may show up suddenly or gradually after a heart attack. Seniors with heart disease and hardening of the arteries are likely candidates for vascular dementia.
Chronically damaged brain blood vessels
High blood pressure and infections can damage the brain’s blood vessels, preventing certain brain regions from getting their proper blood supply.
Seniors who have had heart bypass surgeries and abdominal surgeries may develop symptoms of dementia, or their dementia may worsen.
Signs of vascular dementia
Signs of vascular dementia worsen over time as the memory disease progresses. In the early stages of the disease, seniors may not need much assistance, and family members may not notice their loved one’s health or cognition declining.
Getting a senior diagnosed early may be challenging because the symptoms overlap many health conditions, such as other memory diseases, anxiety, and depression.
Vascular dementia symptoms will start mild and consist of:
- Slowness of thought
- Trouble with planning
- Difficulty with understanding
- Issues with concentration
- Mood and behavioral changes
- Memory loss
- Problems with language
If your senior loved one was not diagnosed early, they will likely have been diagnosed now.
It is common to see symptoms such as:
- A substantial slowness of thought
- Difficulty concentrating
- More noticeable amounts of memory loss
- Not being able to find the right words
- Significant personality changes, such as aggression
- Depression and mood swings
- Difficulty balancing and walking
- Frequent falls
- Loss of bladder control
- Difficulties with daily tasks
Is your loved one at risk?
Knowing if your senior loved one is at risk can help you get them proper treatment before and after a diagnosis of dementia.
The earlier dementia is treated, the sooner a senior can live more comfortably.
Even if your senior loved one is only at risk of developing the disease later on, being prepared is the best way to help them and possibly prevent them from developing the disease.
Risk Factors include the following:
- Increasing age, generally 65 years and older
- High blood pressure
- Metabolic syndrome
- Atrial fibrillation
- Lack of physical activity
- Birth control pills
- Family history of dementia
Fortunately, there are ways to prevent vascular dementia.
While seniors cannot change their family history or age, many lifestyle changes can fight off the memory disease.
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is the best way to protect your brain. Eating a Mediterranean diet, exercising, quitting smoking, and keeping your blood pressure and cholesterol in check, are some of your best options.
It is always easier to prevent a disease than to treat a disease, so if you can, try to motivate your senior loved one to make wise and healthy decisions. Even making healthy lifestyle changes after a diagnosis can help slow the disease and maintain your senior’s health.
Transitioning to memory care
It can be challenging to transition your loved one to a memory care community.
Often, family members procrastinate because they feel guilty. But, when you find the right memory care community, you will notice a happier and healthier senior.
Memory care communities offer daily life-enrichment activities that keep seniors socialized and help prevent isolation and loneliness.
Most seniors enjoy having the opportunities to socialize, build friendships, participate in hobbies, and eat with others. These are things they may not have been able to do when living alone.
To find the best memory care community for your senior, consider what amenities are most important to you and your loved one, begin researching different communities and ask questions about their homes.
Questions to Ask Potential Senior Communities
- Is your memory care community secure?
- Do your staff members have certification or degrees?
- Does your memory care community have an on-site nurse 24/7?
- Do you require background checks for your staff?
- How close is the nearest hospital?
- Can staff administer medication?
- How many residents live here?
- Can my senior request meal substitutions?
- Can my senior eat in their room while sick?
- Do you plan trips outside of the community?
- Do you offer horticultural therapy?
- Are activities personalized?
- Is there a wellness center or programs?
- What levels of care do you provide?
- Can family/friends visit?
A safe home for your senior loved one
Once you see the signs of vascular dementia, it’s time to think about transitioning your loved one to memory care.
Kensington Park Senior Living is an independent living, assisted living, dementia care, and memory care community.
It is Our Promise to care for your senior loved one as we do our own family.
Our compassionate nurses are available 24 hours a day and can administer medication and injections if needed. This allows our residents to “age in place,” as their healthcare needs change.
Our three distinct memory care communities — Kensington Club, Haven and Connections, provide care for seniors experiencing early to late stages of dementia. All three of our memory care neighborhoods are secure, cozy, and supervised. Contact us today to learn more about our communities, rehabilitation programs, dining services, life-enrichment activities, and beautiful grounds.