A FAMILY STORY
My sweet, little 92 year old mother awoke from a nap in her hospital bed and demanded to go check her mail, and she wasn’t the least bit pleasant about it. We had enjoyed normal conversations before she had slipped off to sleep, but upon wakening, my only thought was, who was this she-devil in my mom’s bed that looks just like her?
Being unfamiliar at that time as to how to speak to someone suffering from dementia, I wrongly tried to reason with her, and that just made everything worse. Her having any form of dementia had not been part of her long list of medical issues, right up until that very moment–which quickly turned into the worst night of my life.
Families often find themselves shocked when their normally sweet-mannered grandparent becomes a cussing, fire-breathing, combative stranger, often changing in just a few minutes from their earlier behavior
styles. What I had witnessed was the sudden, immediate onset of vascular dementia.
WHAT IS VASCULAR DEMENTIA?
Thought by researchers as the second most common form of
dementia behind Alzheimer’s, vascular dementia is caused when blood flow to the
portions of the brain deprives nerve cells of oxygen and nourishment. It is sometimes referred to as “post-stoke dementia”.
That’s what happened to my mother. Rather than experiencing the traditional
paralysis and speech difficulties common with stoke, she transformed before my
unbelieving eyes. In language that would
have embarrassed a Marine Drill Sergeant, she threatened to have my older
brother, (who’s in his late 70’s), whip my “fanny” and “make me fly
straight”. It only got worse over the
next 10 hours. Eventually, she had to be
restrained to her bed by scared hospital workers. Tragically, it became my last memory of my
MULTI INFARCT DEMENTIA
Vascular dementia can also be caused after a series of small
strokes, (sometimes called “infarcts”), block blood vessels within the brain. Families may hear the term, “multi-infarct
dementia”, from treating physicians.
The symptoms will vary depending upon which area of the brain is
affected. Memory may, or may not be
impacted. Confusion and a lack of
attention are likely demonstrated along with personality changes.
As is the case with all forms of dementia, minorities are
more commonly impacted by vascular dementia due to other common risk factors
like diabetes, elevated cholesterol, hyper-tension, and other forms of heart
disease. Frequently patients suffering
vascular dementia have a history of heart attack and stroke.
Once vascular dementia has occurred, symptoms may heighten
as evening approaches. Some refer to
this as the “sundown effect”. The
ability to carry out normal daily activities is also impacted.
TREATMENT OF VASCULAR DEMENTIA
There are currently no approved drugs to treat or improve
this condition. Improved lifestyle
before onset in the form of increased exercise, avoiding smoking, and the
healthy maintenance of blood pressure, body weight and blood sugar can not only
help individuals avoid this condition, but also help them from getting worse.