Two men sitting on a couch. An older black gentleman wearing a dark blue sweater to the left, and a younger white man wearing a white shirt.

The term Dementia is used to describe a series of symptoms that affect an individual’s memory, their critical thinking skills, and their social abilities to the extent that it starts to influence or affect their day-to-day life.

Here at Integracare, we understand how distressing it may be to receive a Dementia diagnosis — be it for yourself or for a loved one. To help you understand the symptoms, we’re sharing our insights into four types of Dementia with a special focus on Vascular Dementia.

General symptoms or signs of Dementia vary dependent on the cause and on the individual.

Some General Cognitive Symptoms May Be

  • Memory loss, such as consistently forgetting someone’s name or being unable to remember the day, month, or year.
  • Verbal communication problems, including difficulty finding words or becoming verbally reclusive.
  • Problems with geography, like forgetting the location of a house or store or getting lost while driving, leading to confusion or disorientation.
  • Inappropriate or aggressive language that’s abnormal to the individual.

Some Physical Signs of Dementia Might Be

  • Anxiety or depression,
  • Paranoia,
  • Agitation, and
  • Inappropriate behaviour, such as undressing in public.

While these cognitive and physical signs and symptoms apply to Dementia as an illness generally, there are deeper categorizations of Dementia. Knowing the differences can help us manage and understand the nuances of each form of the illness, including the symptoms and the causes.

When a friend, family member or loved one is diagnosed with Dementia, we know that it’s an incredibly difficult period. You may not know what to do, what to say, or what actions you can take. Rest assured, we at Integracare pride ourselves on having a deep understanding of every form of Dementia. Because of this, we’re able to tailor personalized Dementia Care to our individual Clients’ needs.

We provide a wide range of at-home health care services in the Toronto and Mississauga areas which cater to people living with Dementia. We recommend considering specialized Dementia care as soon as a diagnosis has been made. Senior home care services can help ease the pressure on family members while allowing the persons living with Dementia to stay in the comfort of their own homes.

The Four Most Common Types of Dementia

The four most common types of Dementia are:

Alzheimer’s: Alzheimer’s is the most common type of Dementia. It’s a progressive illness that starts with a minor loss of memory. It may lead to the inability to converse or offer natural responses to the person’s surrounding environment.

Alzheimer’s affects and demolishes neurons and their connectors in the areas of the brain that are involved in memory. As the illness advances, it can dramatically affect areas in the brain that are responsible for language, reasoning, and social behaviour.

Lewy Body Dementia (LBD): A lesser-known form of Dementia, LBD affects between 5 and 15% of all Dementia cases in Canada. It shares some similarities with Parkinson’s disease. Some symptoms may include hallucinations, movement disorders (as per Parkinson’s) and fluctuating attention.

LBD develops when alien deposits of protein develop within the brain’s nerve cells. The protein is called alpha-synuclein. The alpha-synuclein will usually affect the parts of the brain that manage thinking and movement. A build-up of these bodies will eventually block messages between brain cells, leading to Dementia.

Frontotemporal Dementia (FTD): FTD can appear in people as young as 45. FTD is a collective of disorders that can manifest when the nerve cells in the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain are lost, causing the lobes to shrink.

Some unique symptoms of FTD are impaired judgement, dramatic personality changes — such as stealing — or a decline in personal hygiene and decreased self-awareness.

An elderly woman and man holding hands on a wooded hilltop overlooking a vast green, grassy area

What Causes Vascular Dementia?

Simply speaking, Vascular Dementia is caused by a lack of blood flow to a specific area of the brain. When the blood flow is slowed or limited, brain tissue is damaged.

Some of the causes for limited blood flow can include the following:

A Blood Clot: The cause of decreased blood flow to brain tissue might be in response to a blockage from a blood clot or because of a partial blockage. Clots and blockages like these might occur after a minor or a major surgery — like a heart bypass.

A Stroke: Symptoms of Vascular Dementia might also arise after a stroke or a heart attack. This is because blood vessels have been ruptured, and/or the stroke has obstructed an artery in the brain.

People may not know that they’ve suffered a small stroke because the symptoms can be minor and easily attributed to other illnesses. Such symptoms might be blurred vision, issues with speaking, or a weakness in one side of the body. A decline in cognitive ability may indicate a minor stroke has occurred and could indicate the onset of Vascular Dementia. If an individual suffers a series of small strokes, then Vascular Dementia stages may advance.

When someone experiences an obvious stroke or heart attack and then subsequently begins to see changes in their ability to reason or think shortly after, this is called post-stroke Dementia.

Broader Illness: Vascular Dementia may also flair after a blood vessel has been damaged from an infection. High blood pressure or an autoimmune disorder may also cause the onset of this form of Dementia.

For those living with Vascular Dementia, symptoms may worsen following a major surgery or if the individual suffers another stroke or a heart attack.

What Are the Symptoms of Vascular Dementia?

As with the three other types of Dementia, the core symptoms will vary based on the individual. Symptoms can intersect with those seen in Alzheimer’s and other forms of Dementia. In the case of Vascular Dementia, the symptoms will also deviate between people living with the illness based on both the location and on the volume of brain tissue that’s suffered trauma.

It’s important to be aware of possible symptoms to improve the chance of identifying Vascular Dementia early.

In addition to confusion and difficulties with memory, individuals living with Vascular Dementia may suffer challenges with their speed of thinking and their problem-solving or critical thinking skills.

To elaborate further, symptoms may include:

  • An inability, or a decline in the ability, to categorize or organize thoughts or actions.
  • Challenges in deciding how or what to do next (such as what to eat for dinner or what house chore to tackle).
  • Difficulty in focusing on tasks or conversations and in maintaining an interest in things.
  • Issues in communications with others, including the ability to effectively read a social situation, create plans, and relay these details to others.
  • Physical changes, such as an impaired gait, the need to urinate frequently or a loss of bladder control.
  • Emotional distress, including feelings of depression, irritability, lethargy, and restlessness.

Vascular Dementia: Lastly, we come to Vascular Dementia. This is the second-most common form of Dementia, second to Alzheimer’s. Below, we’ll be exploring this form of the illness further.

An elderly man with a blue shirt and red tie and glasses with his arm around a younger woman.

What Are the Stages of Vascular Dementia?

As with the symptoms of the illness, the Vascular Dementia stages and the Vascular Dementia timeline may vary based on the individual.

The stages of Vascular Dementia can be broken down into phases.

Unawareness: Persons with the illness may not know they have it for several years before a diagnosis is made. While they may feel normal and behave as regular, changes in the brain will already be underway.

Moderate: Consider this a mild case of forgetfulness. This will generally be attributed to old age or even the person’s regular forgetful personality; however, this is the second stage of Vascular Dementia.

Mild: The mild stage manifests as increased instances of forgetfulness or loss of memory. Examples of this might be forgetting a scheduled Facetime with family members or missing a hair appointment.

Middling: Here, we see an advancement in cognitive decline — and this is the stage when individuals are frequently diagnosed with Vascular Dementia. Examples of middling or moderate cognitive decline might be semi-consistently forgetting to attend a doctor’s appointment or pay regular bills.

Late: As the illness advances, individuals will see a steeper decline in cognitive ability and reach a stage of Dementia that’s commonly referred to as ‘late-stage Dementia.’ This might lead to the inability to easily remember names or addresses or to dress appropriately for the weather or a situation. While people at this stage of Vascular Dementia may still be able to successfully complete day-to-day tasks and recall old, solid memories, living alone may be putting the person at risk since they may forget to turn off a space heater, steam kettle or oven (just for example).

A side note before we return to the later stages: While we recommend seeking out professional assistance as soon as a person is diagnosed with Dementia to help with the Caregiving basics, it’s especially important to consider in-home care or a professional live-in care service if the person living with Dementia is a risk to themselves and to others.

We are proud to offer compassionate and flexible live-in and in-home Dementia Care to individuals in the Toronto and Mississauga areas. Our team understands the utmost importance of ageing in a comfortable, familiar place. All of our team members are screened thoroughly to guarantee safe, qualified, and personalized care, and our Caregivers are carefully matched to their Clients based on medical and personal needs.

With confusion and memory loss being common traits of Dementia, ageing in place is a beautiful way to ensure a family member or loved one experiences as little disruption as possible as they live with the illness.

Advanced. As the Vascular Dementia stages progress and the person living with the illness reaches a more advanced juncture, they will no longer be able to live alone.

While individuals at this point of the illness may have moments of lucidity, confusion will be a common feeling, with bouts of anger and aggression possibly arising and becoming more frequent. people will need help with Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) such as bathing, using the washroom and cooking meals.

Extreme. Lastly, the most severe degree in the Vascular Dementia stages is a very extreme cognitive decline. The majority of individuals who are suffering from the illness pass before they reach this final stage of Dementia. At this time, the individual will need round-the-clock care and may be unable to communicate.

An elderly woman embracing an elderly man on a couch. He has his head on her shoulder

Measures to Reduce the Chances of Developing Vascular Dementia and Its Severity

Because Vascular Dementia is caused by issues with blood flow, taking some measures to reduce the potential for heart disease or a stroke can help minimize the chances of developing the illness.

Some day-to-day changes to consider would be:

  • Maintaining a heart-healthy diet, which will help to lower cholesterol levels.
  • Cutting back on, or quitting, smoking.
  • Reducing blood pressure. Blood pressure can be lowered by embracing a healthier diet, taking time to exercise, lowering alcohol consumption, and reducing stress levels. Lowering stress can be done through exercise and practicing mindfulness through meditation, journaling, or forest therapy.
  • People with diabetes are also at risk of heart disease and stroke. It’s recommended that those with diabetes take their diabetes medications as per medical advice, attend health checks regularly and ask for advice from a health practitioner on other changes that can be made.

Is Vascular Dementia Hereditary?

People living with Vascular Dementia may have the illness due to genetics. If a parent is living with the genetic disorder CADASIL (Cerebral Autosomal Dominant Arteriopathy with Sub-cortical Infarcts and Leukoencephalopathy), they may pass this on to a child, which can in turn lead to Vascular Dementia.

CADASIL affects the vessels in the white matter in the deeper tissues of the brain. People may start to experience symptoms in their mid-30s. The symptoms may include headaches to the extreme of migraines, seizures, and depression. Signs may lay dormant until the person is older, too.

Connect with Integracare for Support

Living with and supporting someone with any form of Dementia is an emotionally and physically tiring experience. Know that there’s no shame or defeat in seeking help from specialists who can help both you and the person living with the illness to ensure the best possible quality of life for everyone involved.

Integracare has the best Dementia Caregivers in Toronto and Mississauga, with an absolute priority on companionship and engagement for those living with the illness. We also have top-tier training for 100% of our Caregivers. In fact, we are the only in-home care provider in the area that provides all of our Caregivers with ongoing training on the five facets of Dementia. We know that regular training is of utmost importance as new information on the illness is frequently made available. Consistent training guarantees that our Caregivers can assist our Clients by providing the most up-to-date care, allowing them to support their Clients to their fullest potential.

To learn more about our prestigious, Client-centred services, give us a call today.