Living Life with Vascular Dementia

by Leah Community Member

Vascular dementia is second only to Alzheimer's in frequency of occurrence. Unlike Alzheimer's, vascular dementia travels a slower path. I was diagnosed with it almost six years ago (I think) at the age of 56. What is life with vascular dementia like for me now, at the age of 62? Not bad With a change in lifestyle, the addition and/changes in some medications, and cognitive training, I have been able to live an almost-normal life.

Let me review some of the basic information about vascular dementia.
Some common mental and emotional symptoms are:

  • Slowed thinking

  • Memory problems; general forgetfulness

  • Unusual mood changes (e.g. depression, irritability)

  • Hallucinations and delusions

  • Confusion, which may get worse at night.

  • Personality changes and loss of social skills
    Common physical symptoms of vascular dementia include:

  • Dizziness

  • Leg or arm weakness

  • Tremors

  • Moving with rapid, shuffling steps

  • Balance problems

  • Loss of bladder or bowel control
    Common behavioral signs and symptoms are:

  • Slurred speech

  • Language problems, such as difficulty finding the right words for things

  • Getting lost in familiar surroundings

  • Laughing or crying inappropriately

  • Difficulty planning, organizing, or following instructions

  • Difficulty doing things that used to come easily (e.g. paying bills or playing a favorite card game)

  • Reduced ability to function in daily life

In my case, as I suspect in most, stress plays havoc with my condition. At this moment in my life, stress is rearing its ugly head once again. In addition to me being the off-site caregiver to an elderly lady with dementia who is now in a nursing home, I am writing her checks, working to get her covered by Medicaid, and trying NOT to internalize her rantings about not liking where she is and how unfair it is that we won't let her live alone. If this were not enough-and it IS-my husband and I are renovating our cottage, preparing to move there once he retires. We are also fixing up our current home, getting it ready to rent out. AND, I am attempting to go through my elderly lady's boxes packed up from her apartment, organizing them, and trying to dispose of unnecessary items-in addition to my own extra stuff which I cannot move to the cottage. Sooo much to think much to consider... TOOO much for my "pea brain" at times. I get overwhelmed and want to hide under the covers. So, I just sit back and let go of it all for a while until I can "regroup" and start again. A major change I've had to adopt just recently: only go to see my elderly friend in the nursing home once a week. I'd love to go more often, but I come away so drained and distraught that it isn't good for me.

I made mention in the first paragraph that life is not bad at the moment. But, I have to say that life is only as good as you make it. The life changes I mentioned involve better nutrition and more exercise. The medications involve keeping the blood flowing with as few clots as possible as well as using Aricept to improve memory. I began reading about cognitive training as soon as I was diagnosed. Since then, I have developed many units of lessons and teach these to other seniors at senior centers and churches. And daily organizational changes have been necessary: list making, keeping a schedule, etc. Keeping my life as normal as possible involves a degree of work, but it has all been well worth it. And, rounding out all of the above is prayer, meditation, and my faith.

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