Vascular dementia, according to the Mayo Clinic, is the term for cognitive impairments that result from a problem with the brain’s blood supply. There are many different types of vascular dementia, and as many as one to four percent of those over the age of 65 will experience some form of the condition. The UCSF Memory and Aging Center reports that vascular dementia can be difficult to diagnose. However, most forms have similar symptoms in their end stage.
Perhaps one of the earliest signs of vascular dementia, confusion is common among most types of the disease. In fact, the UCSF Memory and Aging Center reports that memory problems are the most common complaints of those with vascular dementia. MedlinePlus reports that people with vascular dementia may become disoriented easily, may have difficulty concentrating and generally experience gradual memory loss. By the end stage of vascular dementia, patients may no longer recognize family members, and may not be able to remember their name. They generally require assistance with most routine tasks, including getting dressed and even eating.
Patients with vascular dementia may initially be more irritable than normal, and in the later stages of the disease they may be easily agitated. According to MedlinePlus, individuals with end stage dementia often undergo personality changes, or may have behavioral problems. The UCSF Memory and Aging Center reports that depression and emotional problems are common in people who have vascular dementia. Those with the disease may also display inappropriate emotions to a situation: they may break into laughter or suddenly start crying without being provoked.
The Mayo Clinic reports that people with vascular dementia often have problems with urinary urgency, or incontinence. By the end stage of vascular dementia, many can no longer control their bladder function at all. While early on they may be able to manage their incontinence, by the end stages most people with vascular dementia require the assistance of a caregiver for their bladder management.
Depending on the area of the brain that is affected by vascular dementia, some people may have trouble controlling their muscles, or may have one-sided weakness. By the end stages of vascular dementia, many people have difficulty walking. Coordinating movements can become increasingly difficult as the disease progresses, according to MedlinePlus. Eventually, due to memory loss and impaired problem solving, a person may simply “forget” how to walk. Many people with end stage vascular dementia are either wheelchair-dependent or bedridden.
Many people with vascular dementia have difficulties communicating their needs or carrying on a conversation. MedlinePlus reports that language problems are common in this disease, and can result in difficulties with problem solving and word finding (also called aphasia). By the end stages of vascular dementia, many cannot piece together a comprehensive sentence. Some may not be able to speak at all.