Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Huntington’s disease are familiar terms among caregivers of older adults suffering from cognitive health decline. But how familiar is everyone with ‘vascular dementia’?
While the term is lesser-known, vascular dementia plays a crucial role in gradually undermining and destroying mental health, that is less to do with heredity and more to do with cardiovascular factors. Let us guide you into the complexities of vascular dementia to shed light upon its significance in the broader landscape of cognitive health!
7 Stages of vascular dementia
In short, vascular dementia is a form of dementia that primarily affects brain cells directly, damage to blood vessels in the brain. This distinction makes it closely related to heart and vascular health, as cardiovascular risk factors such as hypertension and diabetes contribute to its development and rate of progression.
Measuring Vascular Dementia: Global Deterioration Scale
A Global Deterioration Scale (GDS) measures the cognitive decline in vascular dementia. With seven stages, it tracks cognitive function from ordinary to severe impairment. Healthcare professionals use it to monitor changes and identify (to personalize) care plans for seniors with vascular dementia (depending on their stages).
What are the seven stages of Vascular Dementia?
Vascular dementia, like other forms of dementia, progresses through several stages, each with its own set of symptoms and challenges. Understanding these stages can help caregivers and loved ones provide appropriate support and care to individuals affected by the condition. The seven stages of vascular dementia are as follows:
Stage 1: No cognitive decline
In the early stage, individuals may not show any noticeable cognitive decline. However, underlying vascular issues may still be present, increasing the risk of developing vascular dementia later on.
Stage 2: Very mild cognitive decline
At this stage, individuals will experience subtle shifts in cognitive function, such as forgetfulness (frequent) or difficulty finding words. These changes may be attributed to normal aging or other factors.
Stage 3: Mild cognitive decline
Symptoms become more noticeable during this stage, including difficulty with memory, concentration, and problem-solving. Daily activities that were once easy will require more effort during this stage.
Stage 4: Moderate cognitive decline
As vascular dementia progresses, cognitive decline becomes more pronounced. Individuals may struggle with everyday tasks, exhibit poor judgment, and experience personality changes.
Stage 5: Moderately severe cognitive decline
In this stage, individuals require assistance with daily activities such as dressing, bathing, and meal preparation. Memory loss and confusion are prominent, and they may become disoriented in familiar surroundings.
Stage 6: Severe cognitive decline
Stage 6 vascular dementia is where the patient will require emergency placement. At this stage, individuals may lose the ability to communicate effectively and require round-the-clock care. They may experience significant memory loss, personality changes, and difficulty recognizing loved ones.
Stage 7: Very severe cognitive decline
During the final stages of vascular dementia, older adults will most likely lose the ability to walk, sit up, or swallow properly. They may be bedridden and utterly dependent on others for care.
Stages of vascular dementia chart?
We have created the 7 stages of vascular dementia chart for you to understand how the cognitive problem progresses with age.
- Stage 1: Typically occurs in older adults aged 65 and above, with no noticeable cognitive changes.
- Stage 2: Usually begins in the late 60s to early 70s, characterized by subtle cognitive changes that may go unnoticed.
- Stage 3: Often manifests in the mid to late 70s, with noticeable difficulty in memory, concentration, and problem-solving.
- Stage 4: Occurs in the late 70s to early 80s, marked by more pronounced cognitive impairment and challenges in daily tasks.
- Stage 5: Typically seen in the mid to late 80s, individuals require assistance with daily activities due to significant cognitive decline.
- Stage 6: Usually presents in the late 80s to early 90s, with profound memory loss, personality changes, and the need for constant care.
- Stage 7: Occurs in the late 90s or beyond, when individuals may lose the ability to walk, communicate, or swallow, requiring intensive care.
Symptoms of vascular dementia
Listed below are the significant symptoms that are associated with vascular dementia. While it may coincide with other symptoms and signs of Alzheimer’s, it is essential to know them nevertheless.
- Memory loss
- Impaired judgment
- Language and communication problems
- Mood changes
- Difficulty with movement
- Personality changes
Minimize the risk of vascular dementia
Dementia or Alzheimer’s is a condition that can drastically impact one’s quality of life and impact a family caregiver. While certain risk factors associated with age and genetics are beyond human control, there are steps older adults can take to lessen the risk of developing this condition.
To reduce the risk of vascular dementia, here are the prevention methods we can take:
1. Leading a healthy lifestyle:
Regardless of age, we should follow a balanced diet regarding food intake. Try to avoid fatty food and artificial sugars. A good diet, followed by regular exercise, can improve cardiovascular health.
2. Managing chronic conditions:
Older adults can control hypertension, diabetes, and high cholesterol through medication and lifestyle changes. It is advisable to have regular health checkups under the guidance of medical professionals.
3. Staying mentally active:
Keeping the mind sharp and honed is the best way to fight dementia. Seniors should engage in mentally stimulating activities like reading, puzzles, or learning new skills to maintain cognitive function.
4. Avoiding head injuries:
Older adults should take precautions to prevent accidental falls and protect against head injuries. If you are a family caregiver, try to create a safe home environment, especially when it comes to mobility.
5. Stopping smoking
As vascular dementia is related to blood vessels being blocked, smoking is one of the prime factors that contribute to its rapid progression.
6. Limiting alcohol:
Limiting alcohol intake can protect against vascular damage. Heavy alcohol consumption can cause weight gain, and it can impact artery blockage, eventually leading to less blood flow to the brain.
By incorporating these six habits into daily life, older individuals can reduce their risk of vascular dementia progression and promote healthier cognitive activity.
By adopting a proactive approach to cognitive health, we can potentially lower the risk of vascular dementia in older adults. Though it cannot be eliminated, understanding the symptoms and the prime causes of vascular dementia can help us promote a healthy lifestyle for ourselves, our elders, and most importantly, our brains!
What are the end stages of vascular dementia?
The final three stages involve severe cognitive decline, where gradual loss of mobility and dependence on caregivers for tasks related to activities of daily living.
How quickly does vascular dementia progress?
The progression of vascular dementia varies. It can depend on the person and their physical and mental condition. Unhealthy habits like smoking can increase the chance of progression faster than usual. It can advance steadily over several years or occur promptly after a stroke.
How long does each stage of dementia last?
The duration of vascular dementia varies based on individual factors, but stages can last from months to years. For example, stage 3 can last between 2 and 6 years, while stage 5 can last between 1.5 and 2 years.
What is the longest you can live with vascular dementia?
Life expectancy becomes crucial depending on the stage of vascular dementia. Individuals may live for several years after diagnosis if caught early. If an older adult is in the latter stages of vascular dementia, the life expectancy can be expected to be around 1.5 to 4 years on average. The life expectancy of stages 1 & 2 can be around about 8 – 10 years if not more.
What is Stage 4 vascular dementia?
Stage 4 involves moderate cognitive decline, which includes noticeable memory loss and difficulty with daily tasks. During this stage, or earlier, it is advisable to place an individual in specialized care like memory care facilities or provide dementia home care assistance.