Living With Vascular Dementia

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Recognizing the signs of dementia can be difficult. Often, patients try to explain away the symptoms or blame them on the process of aging. However, for Dianne Campbell, age wasn’t a factor. She was in her 40s when she received her vascular dementia diagnosis.

“It started with small things,” said Campbell, 48, in an interview with the British Heart Foundation. “I couldn’t remember doctors appointments or to collect my prescription from the pharmacy. I’d be cooking, and next thing, the kitchen would be filled with smoke because I’d forgotten about it. I’d take out the milk and wouldn’t put it back, then look in the fridge and it wasn’t there.”

At first, she attributed her symptoms to stress, age and fatigue. “My tiredness was through the roof and I couldn’t concentrate on anything at all,” Campbell said.

“I was so frustrated with myself. Everything I did, I just couldn’t remember,” she added. “In the end, it was going from bad to worse, so I made an appointment with my general practitioner, who did a memory test and then referred me for an MRI of my brain.”

In 2012, Campbell received a diagnosis of vascular dementia from a specialist.

The word dementia describes a set of symptoms that can include memory loss and difficulties with thinking, problem-solving or language. In vascular dementia, these symptoms occur when the brain is damaged because of problems with the supply of blood to the brain.

Is there a link between dementia and heart disease?

Past studies suggest that problems in the vascular system — the heart and blood vessels that supply blood to the brain — can contribute to the development of dementia. Campbell was diagnosed with vascular dementia, which is the second most common type of dementia after Alzheimer’s disease.

Vascular dementia is caused by a lack of blood flow to a part of the brain. Blood flow may be decreased or interrupted by blood clots or bleeding because of a ruptured blood vessel. It can also be caused by damage to a blood vessel from other disorders such as:

  • Atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries)
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Infection
  • High blood pressure
  • Other causes, such as an autoimmune disorder

Most forms of dementia slowly worsen over time. Living with any type of chronic illness can be difficult for patients and those caring for them. But help is available.

What support is available?

After your loved one receives a diagnosis, you may have questions about the disease and the types of support available for families. At Lean on Dee Senior Care Advocates, a highly trained team of compassionate caregivers specializes in dementia support services for clients and their families. Lean on Dee’s dementia home visit service is designed to promote and maintain the physical and cognitive abilities of clients, while also providing education, support, resources, and respite care for families and caretakers. For more information, call 800-413-8733 or visit www.leanondee.com.

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