Vascular Dementia and Stroke Explained
Vascular Dementia is the second most common form of dementia to affect seniors above the age of 65. It presents as a general cognitive decline with multiple symptoms that start off mild and continue to worsen due to the progressive nature of dementia.
Early symptoms of Vascular Dementia include:
- Mild memory loss or confusion
- Difficulty concentrating
- General disorientation or confusion
- Struggling to follow simple, familiar tasks like cooking a favorite recipe or driving to a routine place like the bank or post office.
A stroke is an event that causes a disruption of either blood flow or oxygen supply to the brain. Strokes range from mild to severe, and impact a person’s neurological, speech, and physical abilities with impact that ranges from mild to severe. Strokes are a very common affliction. The CDC reports that every 40 seconds, someone in the United States has a stroke. Strokes are also the leading cause of long-term disability in Americans aged 65+.
Vascular Dementia and Strokes are similar because they are both the result of diminished or interrupted blood flow to the brain. The longer the disruption of blood flow, the greater the impact on an individual’s cognitive function. Vascular Dementia and Stroke have a steady correlation of overlap and connection. While Vascular Dementia does not always occur after a stroke, approximately 20% of stroke patients go on to develop dementia – a not insignificant statistic.
There are 3 common types of strokes and the type of stroke determines the severity and any long-lasting impacts:
- Ischemic Strokes – these occur when a blood clot blocks blood supply to a the brain and are the most common type of stroke
- Hemorrhagic Strokes – these occur when a blood vessel ruptures and disrupts the flow of oxygen to the brain
- Warning Strokes (a type of ischemic stroke) – these are a mini or mild stroke which are indication of future strokes
The type of strokes can also indicate the occurrence of Vascular Dementia after the stroke. Warning strokes or mini, recurring ischemic strokes tend to have a prolonged impact on the brain due to the repeated, interrupted blood flow to the brain. These types of stroke patients are often afflicted with Vascular Dementia as a result.
The progressive and irreversible nature of both conditions might lead to an assumption that home care and treatment is only about managing symptoms, however, with a thoughtful care plan that both engages and stimulates cognitive abilities, it is possible to decrease the impact of both Vascular Dementia and strokes.
Home Care for Vascular Dementia
Vascular Dementia requires careful planning for caregiving throughout the progression of the condition. Early intervention in the form of caregiving is recommended because it allows the individual, their family, and the caregiver to become comfortable with one another and plan next steps according to their diagnosis, lifestyle, and symptoms.
Early intervention can also help slow down the progression of the condition. An experienced caregiver can provide companionship, keep the patient engaged with different activities to stimulate their mental faculties. They can also work with your loved one’s physician to coordinate any treatment plans and oversee physical therapy, if required.
Caregivers can provide the following services:
- Light housekeeping
- Preparing and providing healthy, diet-specific meals
- Assisting with dressing, toileting, transfers and other daily tasks
- Overseeing medication schedules
- Organizing and coordinating any medical appointments (including non-emergency medical transportation to and from)
- Companionship, emotional support, and liaising with family and doctors to keep everyone on the same page re: you or your loved one’s condition
With progressive Dementia, engagement is key. Since daily activities are difficult for people with dementia, simple tasks like dressing oneself or running a familiar errand like checking the mail can become sources of frustration. That’s why failure-free activities for people with dementia are so important – they encourage success and validate their efforts. Being happily engaged in a satisfying activity reduces agitation, anxiety, depression, and anger. It may even reduce challenging behaviors like sundowning which is an agitated state during late afternoon or early evening times due to shifts in the circadian rhythm or mental fatigue from managing their condition all day. An experienced caregiver can personalize these experiences based on their client’s interests and hobbies to keep them better engaged.
Home Care for Strokes
One of the most important things about caring for someone who has suffered a stroke is the importance of experienced and 360 degree after care. With the high chance of recurrence with strokes, it is important to enact the changes prescribed by medical professionals to reduce the risk factors for a stroke.
At this stage in the recovery journey, the experience, qualifications, and importance of the right caregiver make all the difference. Unlike other medical conditions that may have a simplified rehabilitative plan, stroke care is multifaceted and nuanced – it takes a number of interdisciplinary skills and experience across emotional, clinical and personality related factors.
Timeliness plays a big factor in stroke treatment and after care. Multiple changes have to be enacted at once – these range from physiotherapy to help with paralysis or spasticity, cognitive treatments to help regain memory loss and speech disruptions, overseeing medicines, and implementing necessary dietary and lifestyle changes. There is also the assistance required with daily tasks ranging from toileting, dressing, feeding, driving or even walking.
Rehab also plays a large role in post-stroke care, with an emphasis on Physical Therapy to help overcome physical limitations caused by the stroke such as paralysis. Occupational Therapy is also recommended to help relearn daily skills like brushing teeth, using utensils, dressing oneself, etc. And Speech Therapy is helpful for those whose speech was compromised due to the stroke. It is a valuable tool for patients to be able to communicate independently and advocate for oneself.
All of these changes are made with a keen attention to your loved-ones reactions and responses to the treatment plan to ensure that it is going well. There is also the continued observation to recognize the signs or symptoms of a recurring stroke. Post Stroke care needs to be carefully calibrated and balanced with Dementia specific strategies so as not to physically or mentally overwhelm the patient, but to just stretch their abilities.
Care Mountain, serves families across the DFW Metroplex, ranging from Frisco, Plano, Allen, McKinney to Preston Hollow, Highland Park, Dallas, Arlington, South Lake and Fort Worth. We have successfully matched caregivers to families for 18 years. We have served numerous clients with in-home care that have had a combination of Stroke and Dementia and have specialized experience and expertise in this area. We work with experienced and tenured caregivers who go through an intensive hiring process before matching with our clients. We ensure that our caregivers are experienced in a variety of conditions so that they can provide the specific level of help your loved one requires. Due to the changing nature of these conditions, Care Mountain ensures that your loved one always has the same or consistent caregivers to maintain continuity of care. This is especially helpful for patients who suffer from memory loss or disorientation, as outlined above.