If a senior under your care is acting moody or confused, ask yourself if the problem might be medical. A behavioral mental health specialist will tell you it is common to confuse certain types of dementia with emotional problems, especially if it seems to occur out of the blue.
Vascular dementia is a condition associated with inadequate blood flow to the brain. It is also the second most common type of dementia in seniors, according to WebMD. Learn how vascular dementia works and why it is a critical sign for those caring for the elderly.
What is Vascular Dementia?
The Mayo Clinic describes vascular dementia as an umbrella term for changes in reasoning skills, thought processes and memory. It occurs when someone has impaired blood flow to the brain. The most common cause is a narrowing of the blood vessels that feed the brain.
In some cases, a person has a series of tiny strokes without being aware of it. Known as silent brain infarctions, they cause damage that can lead to vascular dementia.
Symptoms of Vascular Dementia
Vascular dementia is a hard condition to pick up on because the symptoms are varied and often overlap with other medical problems such as:
- Problems with short term memory
- Sudden wandering
- Difficulty concentrating
- Inappropriate spending
- Loss of bladder control
Mood changes are a significant symptom, as well. A person who bursts out laughing or crying for no identifiable reason may be showing signs of vascular dementia.
Treating Vascular Dementia
The doctor will attempt to manage the underlying cause of the dementia like:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol levels
- Low or high blood sugar
- Blood clots
Once the triggers are under control, the doctor may suggest medication to handle the symptoms. Cholinesterase inhibitors and memantine are two common treatment options.
Up to 20 percent of dementia cases can be attributed to this vascular problem, explains WebMD. Vascular dementia can be a precursor to, or sign of, a stroke, so it is important to get a medical evaluation for a senior who has sudden mood changes.