Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia are both forms of dementia so they are often believed to be the same condition or mistaken for each other. There are some areas where the diseases are similar, but there are also clear differences between the two and it is important for family caregivers to be able to discern between vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. In this article we would like to share some information about the differences between vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
To start, Alzheimer’s disease is much more common than vascular dementia. Vascular dementia is usually brought on suddenly by a stroke or lack of sufficient blood supply to the brain, but the cause of Alzheimer’s disease is still unknown. Neither disease is 100% preventable but many people believe that seniors can reduce their risk of vascular dementia by preventing a stroke. Strokes can often be prevented by monitoring blood pressure, cholesterol, physical activity and keeping a healthy diet. Alzheimer’s disease is believed to be caused by a combination of age, genetics and overall health so many people recommend a healthy lifestyle and mental stimulation for seniors as they age.
The symptoms of vascular dementia are often much more noticeable than the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease early on because of their severity and sudden onset. In the beginning seniors with vascular dementia are much more likely to experience problems with movement and walking than seniors with Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s disease can cause problems with balance or walking in the middle and later stages of the disease but most seniors do not experience any physical problems early on. Vascular dementia on the other hand can cause movement and walking problems early on because many seniors that suffer from a stroke will experience difficulty moving one side of their body. When the blood supply in the brain is cut off during a stroke the cells die and if the stroke occurred in an area of the brain that controls movement seniors will experience difficulties immediately.
The progression of vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s disease is also very different. Patients with Alzheimer’s disease usually experience a slow cognitive decline over time but with vascular dementia the progression is said to be a “step-like” pattern. Alzheimer’s patients usually experience small changes in their memory and thinking capabilities over time but do not usually have any sudden changes that occur from one day to the next. With vascular dementia the progression is said to be step-like because patients often experience a sudden change one day and then have a period of time where their symptoms remain the same until they experience another sudden change.
The overall prognosis for Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia can also be very different. Alzheimer’s patients often live much longer than those with vascular dementia because Alzheimer’s disease usually progresses much slower than vascular dementia. The median age for those with Alzheimer’s disease is 84.6 years old and the average survival time after being diagnosed is 8.4 years. The survival time after being diagnosed with vascular dementia is harder to determine because each case is different and the prognosis depends on a variety of factors. The survival time for those with vascular dementia usually depends on the speed of the progression of their disease and the amount of damage to their brain from stroke. Family caregivers can keep these statistics in mind but it is also important to remember that these statistics are not guarantees and there is always hope that their loved ones can live much longer with proper care and treatment.
The most important thing for family caregivers to do is to pay attention to their loved one’s symptoms so that they will be able to help them seek treatment for the right condition. Certain medications and lifestyle changes can often help slow the progression of both vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s disease so it is important for seniors to visit their doctor as soon as they start to show symptoms of either disease. Family caregivers can also accompany their loved ones to the doctor so that they can seek advice on their loved one’s specific needs and provide them with the best possible care. Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia can be difficult for family caregivers to deal with emotionally because both diseases can cause significant changes in their loved one over time so it is important for family caregivers to try to remain positive and keep the tips in this article in mind.
For additional related articles in our home care blog:
- Types of Dementia (2 Parts)
- The Differences between Dementia with Lewy Bodies and Alzheimer’s disease
- The Difference between Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease
- Stages of Alzheimer’s and What to Expect