Vascular dementia is an illness that can affect the brain after a stroke or any other significant loss of blood. This disease is also called multi-infarct dementia or MID. It is commonly confused with Alzheimer's disease because the symptoms are similar--a patient also can have both. After a stroke, MID can progress gradually in stages but can also become aggravated by a second stroke or heart attack. Most patients experience vascular dementia in two phases: early onset and a later stage, in which they experience rapid deterioration of motor functions and cognitive abilities.
The onset of symptoms is usually gradual in the early stages of vascular dementia. A patient might experience problems walking, thinking straight or performing regular activities. Difficulty following conversations, short-term memory loss and lack of concentration are also early signs of trouble. Because early symptoms occur slowly over time, people with vascular dementia have more insight into their own condition. A person might only need small reminders and cues to maintain a normal lifestyle.
The need for supervision increases once a person reaches later stages of vascular dementia. Their mental can be so limited that they can become a danger to themselves. A patient in later stages of MID can experience hallucinations, delusions, confusion and wandering. The progression of the illness in later stages causes patients to become frail, incontinent, and immobile. One of the most difficult behavioral changes of patients in late stage dementia is an increased tendency to become violent or strike out at caregivers. Most people at this stage require the constant care of a nursing facility.