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House Calls: Vascular Dementia

Vascular dementia is caused by problems with the blood supply to the brain. It is the second most common type of dementia behind Alzheimer’s dementia.

This form of dementia is thought to be irreversible and is caused by a number of small strokes or one large stroke. However, vascular dementia can be preventable. In 25 percent of stroke victims dementia may develop within one year of the stroke. One study showed that 2.5 percent of all people over the age of 70 may develop this form of dementia.

A stroke occurs when blood flow to part of the brain is interrupted or stopped. Blood carries oxygen to the brain, and without oxygen, part of the brain will die. Vascular dementia causes memory loss and decreases brain function.

Medical conditions that increase the risk of a stroke and vascular dementia are atrial fibrillation, previous strokes, high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease. Smoking, alcohol use, and poor diet also increase the risk.

Early symptoms of dementia include getting lost in familiar places, difficulty remembering words, misplacing things, personality changes, and loss of interest in regular hobbies. More severe symptoms include hallucinations, delusions, depression, social withdrawal and memory loss. Strokes are diagnosed by a CAT scan, MRI, EEG (electrical activity of the brain), and/or a carotid Doppler (checks for blockage in the neck). Memory tests are also used to confirm the diagnosis of dementia.

There is no known cure for vascular dementia. However, making certain lifestyle changes can reduce the risk of a stroke. Have blood pressure checked regularly, and if it is high, do something about it. Stop smoking, exercise, reduce salt and eat a low fat diet to further reduce the risk of strokes.

A diagnosis of dementia doesn’t mean life is over. Many people with dementia go on to live a long and happy life. Challenging the brain is good. This improves the ability to retain and retrieve memories. Things like reading, playing word games and working cross word puzzles all help to stimulate the mind.

Managing dementia can be difficult. Some recommendations are to follow a routine, carry a notepad, be upfront and honest about the condition, communicate needs, remove distractions, avoid rushing into new tasks, be patient and allow others to help. Caring for a person with vascular dementia can be equally difficult and stressful. It is important for the caregiver to be educated about the condition. Caregivers can make the situation easier by providing a stable and supportive environment.

On Wednesday at 10:30 am, the organization, Dolls for Dementia, Inc. is hosting an event at Paris Health and Rehab Nursing Home. There will be speakers from Care Givers United, who will discuss Dementia. Betsy Broyles Arnold, and Molly Arnold-Gay, daughter and granddaughter of Frank Broyles, will be the guest speakers. They will talk about what to expect if diagnosed with dementia. They will also speak to caregivers and give tips on how to care for loved ones with dementia.

Care Givers United is an organization that is “dedicated to educating and uplifting those who care for people suffering from illnesses such as Alzheimer’s and Dementia.”

Anyone interested in coming to this meeting Wednesday, is welcome. These ladies have personal experiences as caregivers and will share valuable information to help other caregivers have a more positive experience. Care Givers United is based out of Fayetteville.

There is a support group meeting the last Wednesday of each month at Paris Health and Rehabilitation Center for caregivers and family members of those with dementia. For more information, contact them at 963-6151.

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