We know how worrying and stressful it can be when faced with the reality that a loved one is living with vascular dementia and are struggling to cope alone. Watching someone close whose life is impacted by the varying symptoms presented by vascular dementia can be upsetting and overwhelming.
Vascular dementia is the second most common type of dementia, affecting around 150,000 people in the UK, around 17% of cases. It is caused by diseased or damaged blood vessels that cause a reduction in blood flow to the brain.
Here we explain what is vascular dementia and the signs and symptoms of vascular dementia. We also outlined how care can be provided to someone living with vascular dementia so they can live with a good quality of life with independence.
WHAT IS VASCULAR DEMENTIA?
Vascular dementia is caused by a disease of the blood vessels, that reduce the blood supply to the brain. Brain cells that are healthy need a constant supply of blood to feed the brain with nutrients and most importantly oxygen. A network of vessels called the vascular system deliver blood supply to the brain. When the vascular system is damaged the blood vessels become blocked or will leak. This means blood is unable to feed the brain and over time will die.
The death of brain cells will then cause dementia symptoms. Signs of vascular dementia vary depending on the part of the brain affected. This type of dementia can be caused by a stroke, depending on the severity of the stroke and the part of the brain affected by it.
There are risk factors that increase a person’s risk of vascular dementia include anything that can cause damage to the blood vessels in the brain.
This includes factors like smoking, high blood pressure (also known as hypertension), high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, obesity and heart problems.
As we age it is therefore important to ensure we regularly exercise and have a healthy diet to reduce the risk of developing vascular dementia. It is also advisable not to smoke.
In rare cases vascular dementia is caused by an inherited genetic disorder. One such disorder is called CADASIL (cerebral autosomal dominant arteriopathy with subcortical infarcts and leukoencephalopathy). Those living with this disorder typically have a family history of vascular problems, for example strokes.
THE SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF VASCULAR DEMENTIA
When considering what is vascular dementia, you will also want to know about the signs and symptoms of vascular dementia so you can better care for your loved one and respond to their needs.
Here we explain the signs of vascular dementia and how they differ depending on where you are on your dementia journey:
Early and mid-stage dementia
During early-stage dementia and mid-stage dementia signs and symptoms of vascular dementia are similar to those of other types of dementia. Whilst memory is affected in those living with Alzheimer’s disease, it is not always a common symptom of someone living with vascular dementia.
Common symptoms are further broken down into cognitive symptoms and changes in mood which affect a person living with vascular dementia:
Cognitive symptoms of vascular dementia include:
Slowness in thinking and thought
Frequent disorientation and confusion
Problems with planning and understanding
Problems with making decisions or solving problems
Speech and language problems
Problems with perceiving objects and visuospatial skills
Problems with mood can include:
Depression and anxiety
Changes in mood, behaviour and personality
A person living with vascular dementia may be very aware of how their condition is impacting them, so depression is a very common symptom of vascular dementia. If you are living with vascular dementia as a result of a stroke, then the symptoms you are living with are common to the physical symptoms experienced from stroke.
Vascular dementia is a progressive disease so will generally get worse over time. The speed of progression will vary from person to person. During late stage dementia or advanced dementia those who have had a stroke may experience additional strokes that further damage the brain. Damage from further strokes can make symptoms worse.
Other signs and symptoms of vascular dementia during late-stage dementia include:
Severe disorientation and confusions
More problems with reasoning and communication
Increased memory loss
Mood changes for example agitation and anger
Disturbed sleep patterns
Read more about how the disease progresses and the 7 stages of dementia.
HOW TO CARE FOR SOMEONE WITH VASCULAR DEMENTIA
If your loved one is living with vascular dementia it is likely that they will require increasing levels of care and support with daily life. There are several steps you and your family can take to support your loved one to live well with vascular dementia. You may wish to consider how you can that enables your loved one to have more independence and live a better quality of life.
You may also wish to consider ways in which you keep your loved one active, both mentally and physically, and enjoy time together. Music therapy for dementia is very powerful in providing relaxation and fostering positive memories. There are also many games for dementia that you can play with your loved one, creating a pleasurable and fun way to enjoy your time with them, whilst actively stimulating their brain.
As a family carer of a person living with dementia, you must also consider your own well-being and make sure you reach out for dementia support. There are also numerous dementia charities in the UK that provide advice and support to families of those living with dementia.
CARE OPTIONS FOR VASCULAR DEMENTIA
When considering long-term care for a loved one who is living with vascular dementia, it is recommended you think about the different types of care and where to get the care you need. The table below explains the benefits and limitations of . There are many compelling benefits to a person living with vascular dementia to receive care in the comfort and familiarity of their own home. Live-in care provided by a professional enables a person living with vascular dementia to live a better quality of life at home, with as much independence as possible.
One-to-one care, tailored to you
Stay in the comfort and familiarity of your own home
Live life your way with choice and independence
Complex needs can be supported.
Improved health outcomes – fewer falls, lower rates of infection and hospital admissions
Safest type of care during the Coronavirus pandemic
Peace of mind for you and your family
Comparable costs to care in a quality nursing home – very cost effective for couples
Flexible number and frequency of visits
Cost effective where care needs are low
The ability to stay at home with support and not move into a care home.
Familiar faces most of the time.
A safe and secure environment
No home maintenance required
Meals are planned and cooked for you
Arranged activities and social events
Can still be part of local community if moving locally
Adjusting to a carer being in your home
A spare room is needed
Home modifications may be required
Home maintenance still required
Short visits do not always facilitate a deep-rooted relationship to be formed
You will not be guaranteed the same carers
Short visits do not allow for quality care of specialist or complex conditions
Visiting carers increase chances of Coronavirus transmission
No care and support during the night
Stress and upheaval of leaving a much-loved home
Leaving a loved community
Loss of family pets
Moving all your possessions into one room
Family home sold to pay care home fees leaving nothing for the family
Care team ratios – one carer will be looking after 4/6 residents with different needs
Imposed routines – life is driven by fixed daily patterns (waking, eating, socialising)
Higher rates of hospital admissions and infections, including Covid-19
Not getting on with other residents
Why choose The Good Care Group?
We have been providing high quality, live-in care to families in England and Scotland for over 10 years. At the heart of our award-winning service is enabling people to live independently in their own home with an improved quality of life. Our approach to care at home means our clients can achieve improved health and well-being. For families they benefit from peace of mind and reassurance that their loved on is receiving the very best care and support.
A perfectly matched care team
A live-in care service usually involves two carers working a two-week rotation. They will be carefully matched working with you and your family. We make sure they are skilled and equipped to meet all your care and support needs. Our focus on matching means the care team chosen share common interests and backgrounds. We know this means life is enjoyable for everyone. Your care team really get to know you and your needs, which means you get consistency of care.
Expertly trained carers
All our professional carers are required to complete our leading training programme before they care for our clients. Our programme has been created with leading charities and clinical experts. It goes beyond mandatory requirements in the care sector. Carers are then equipped to provide high-quality care and support for those living with specialist conditions. Our carers never stop learning new skills to further enhance the care they provide.
Continuity of care
Unlike an agency we employ our carers. This means they are committed to us, as we are to them. Carers enjoy the security of being employed, which means they stay with us longer. Those who work for agencies move around more. For families this means that you get continuity and consistency of the same care team caring for your loved one. This means high-quality care can be achieved with improved outcomes and no disruption to your loved one’s life.
In-house clinical experts
We have a dedicated team of in-house clinical experts. This includes a specialist consultant nurse, who also provides Admiral Nurse services to those living with dementia. They guide our carers to provide safe and effective nurse-led care at home. We also have our own in-house Occupational Therapist (OT) who works closely with healthcare professionals and our care teams. Our OT provides guidance and advice that enables people to live well in their own home with any equipment they may need. These experts lead, monitor and support our care teams to delivery best practice nurse-led care at home.
Innovative care technology
Unlike any other live-in care provider, we have our own online care community. Families, healthcare professionals and carers can access up to date information about the care being provided. It enables more effective monitoring, which means issues can be responded to efficiently. For our families it provides a reassuring window into the care their loved one is receiving. Our carers also use the online community to share ideas and support each other. It provides a vital connection which is important when remote working. Carers will use the online community so their clients can enjoy time online. This includes video calls with family, so they feel connected. Clients can use it to shop online or browse the web.
Improving health outcomes
Every decision we make is driven by delivering improved health outcomes for our clients. Our digital technology allows us to predict risk and shape the care we provide. We measure health outcomes.
We want to know we are improving the quality of our clients’ lives every year.
Our health and well-being aim to reduce:
behaviours that may challenge
Antipsychotic drugs in dementia care
Falls in the home
Re-admission to hospital
Urinary tract infections (UTIs)
They aim to promote:
Excellent nutrition and hydration
Enjoyment in life
Highest service rating from care regulators in England and Scotland
Unlike introduction agencies we are fully regulated in England and Scotland. This means the care and support we provide is regularly inspected. We are the only dedicated live-in care provider in England to achieve an ‘Outstanding’ rating by the Care Quality Commission (CQC). We have achieved this rating in all five measures – safe, effective, caring responsive and well-led. In Scotland, our service has been inspected by the Care Inspectorate (CI). It has achieved the highest rating of a 6 (Excellent) for quality of care and support and 5 (very good) for staffing, management and leadership. We know this provides families with peace of mind that their loved one is receiving the best possible care.
A fully managed service
Families benefit from our fully managed service delivered by care experts. This means you do not need to worry about supervising and managing the carer looking after your loved one. Our professional carers are supervised by an experienced care manager and supported by clinical experts. We provide this support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Your dedicated care manager will be on hand to support you, your loved one and our carer teams. We invest in our care management team to ensure they have enough time to give the support everyone needs. With our fully managed service, families do not have the burden of managing the care arrangement themselves. We know this means families can have peace of mind, whilst enjoying quality time with their loved one. They do not have to worry about the tasks of caring.
Local teams with national coverage
We operate throughout England and Scotland with a local approach to management of our teams near you. Each dedicated care manager local to you has only a small number of clients to support. This means they can provide higher levels of monitoring and support than other home care providers. It also means a highly personalised approach to care can be delivered.
CASE STUDY: HELPING STEVE TO LIVE WELL WITH VASCULAR DEMENTIA
“My husband Steve is 88 and has vascular dementia. For many years now I have been his primary carer, looking after him every day.
Recently, his condition had been worsening. He would get very insecure, anxious and agitated if I were not around – even if I popped to the bathroom, it would unsettle him. He would get angry and think I was leaving him.
Essentially housebound, I was finding it harder and harder to cope. It was a relentless strain and I reached breaking point. He was prescribed anti-psychotic medication, but if anything, it made things worse. They did not stop the aggression or paranoia and they seemed to have a negative effect on him, mentally and physically.
Something had to change, and it did when we found The Good Care Group give their expertise in dementia care. They told me about the SPECAL technique. It works with the condition, rather than fighting against it. Their carers began to use it to talk to Steve about his career as a pilot and found that he still had so many positive memories of flying all over the world.
It would take him back to happier days. He was no longer this elderly, frightened and sometimes frightening man with dementia.
He was a dashing 30-year-old pilot, king of his world. But he would still get very upset and angry if he felt that I had gone somewhere without him. It was tough for the care team and meant I still could not take the break I really needed.
Again, the key was in the past. I used to run a florist shop – something that Steve was proud of but never took an active interest in. So, when I needed a break, we would say there was a problem at the shop that I needed to sort out. He would roll his eyes with relief he did not need to be involved and began to accept me being away from him for longer periods. Eventually, I was even able to have a two-week holiday in France with my daughter, knowing that Steve was safe and well at home.
Now we have done away with the medication and hardly have any of the outbursts that were so challenging before. My daughter and I have regular days out together and the occasional holiday abroad. It makes such a difference to be able to take that time to recharge. I feel like Steve’s wife again, not his carer. The professional carers and the support from The Good Care Group have made a huge difference and Steve gets all the love, care and attention he deserves. I cannot thank them enough.” – Steve’s Wife
ARRANGING DEMENTIA CARE AT HOME
Once you have decided care at home is right for you and your loved one – we are here to help. We will conduct a comprehensive assessment of your loved one’s needs. This covers not just their care needs, but how they wish to live their life. The assessment informs the care plan which will be created by an expert care manager, guided by clinical experts. The plan of care guides our professional care team to deliver the highest quality dementia care to your loved one, which includes music therapy if you wish.
USEFUL DEMENTIA RESOURCES
To support you and your family we have created a useful dementia care guide, which provides you with information and advice on how to provide person-centred dementia care following a diagnosis of dementia. There is also a number of dementia charities across the UK who provide families with help, advice and support when they need it most, including Age UK, Dementia UK and the Alzheimer’s Society. The dementia care guide ‘living well after diagnosis’ produced by the Alzheimer’s Society provides a wealth of information for both the person living with dementia and those caring for people with dementia
Dementia Carers First is a charity that provides support for dementia carers and has a wealth of online resources and information. The NHS has a useful living well with dementia guide that provides practical tips and guidance so people living with dementia can live a fulfilling life.
You can also visit the Carers Trust, Carers First and Carers UK to get more general information and support about being a family carer.