Vascular Dementia and Mobility: Is There a Connection?

There are several types of dementia, the most common being Alzheimer’s disease. Another type of dementia is vascular dementia. It affects around 150,000 people in the UK and happens when blood flow to the brain is reduced, usually due to strokes or mini strokes. It occurs most commonly after age 65. Vascular dementia and mobility difficulties often go hand in hand.

Vascular dementia is degenerative meaning it gets worse over time although it may be possible to slow progression and to better manage symptoms. Vascular dementia and mobility are often considered together because it’s believed that good mobility can help prevent and slow the disease, but also because the dementia itself can cause mobility problems.

Here we explain more about vascular dementia and mobility including the types of physical symptoms that may occur, why they happen, and how to encourage greater mobility in those with vascular dementia.

Vascular dementia and mobility symptoms

There are multiple symptoms of vascular dementia, including better known concerns such as memory difficulties, problems with concentration and planning, and confusion.

However, vascular dementia and mobility symptoms also often go hand in hand. Vascular dementia and mobility symptoms vary from person to person, because it depends what areas of the brain are affected by the disease. However, they may include difficulties with walking, problems with balance, and a greater likelihood of falling. It may be harder to get up to standing from sitting. People with vascular dementia may also experience weakness and tremors (shaking).

It’s also important to remember that there is a high correlation between those who have had strokes and those with vascular dementia. If the stroke has caused a degree of paralysis or weakness then this will also affect mobility.

Furthermore, medication, vision problems, distress, pressure ulcers, blood clots, infections and other illnesses can all worsen mobility problems in those living with vascular dementia.

The physical and mobility symptoms of vascular dementia can make it increasingly difficult for the individual living with the disease to lead a safe independent life and carry out the tasks involved with daily living.

Why does vascular dementia cause mobility problems?

There’s still a great deal that’s not understood about vascular dementia. However, researchers are aware that there are some key risk factors. There are a range of risk factors, including Diabetes, high blood pressure and smoking. However, those who do little or no physical exercise are known to be at higher risk.

It’s then difficult to determine what is what, and a chicken and egg situation arises. Vascular dementia may develop because an individual has mobility problems. Mobility problems are then worsened by the dementia. It’s a difficult cycle to prevent and manage effectively.

How to treat someone with vascular dementia and mobility problems

There is no cure for vascular dementia and it’s not possible, as yet, to undo the damage to the brain that’s already occurred. However, it is sometimes possible to slow down the rate of decline. Much of this focuses on improving mobility to enable the individual to get fitter and lose weight (if they are overweight). Treatments such as physiotherapy, occupational therapy and specialist dementia exercise support can be helpful.

It’s also important to eat healthily, stop smoking, reduce alcohol consumption and seek support with identifying if any medications may be worsening the condition.

When someone with vascular dementia finds that their mobility is affected, and perhaps they are worried about falling, they can have a natural tendency to move less. This can actually make things worse. They need support and encouragement with their mobility to help reduce the risk of falling and to slow down their decline.

How to encourage mobility in those with vascular dementia?

The primary way to increase mobility in those with vascular dementia is to make movement safe. Making the environment around them safer is important. At the same time, it is possible to then encourage them to take gradual steps to improve their mobility, such as making cups of tea or adding seeds to a bird feeder in the garden.

The goal is to maintain as much independence in their mobility as possible, while making things safer. This can be achieved in a number of different ways, such as installing handrails, ensuring smooth single level flooring without rugs or cables, decluttering and using contrasting furniture and floors.

Learn more about how to prevent falls.

Encouraging mobility in someone who may have already had mobility difficulties, and who may be justifiably worried about falling, can be very difficult and time-consuming.

Improving mobility and enabling mobility in those with vascular dementia is another of the enormous benefits of specialist dementia residential care. Experienced and trained carers in carefully planned settings can ensure that residents with vascular dementia get the support and confidence they need to move more and retain and regain as much independence as possible.

At Eastleigh Care Homes, we provide specialist dementia care, ensuring all of our residents stay as mobile as possible knowing that it improves their wellbeing in so many ways. Come and see for yourself how Eastleigh dementia care is the right decision for your loved one with vascular dementia, or any other form of the disease, by calling us on 01769 573166 to arrange a visit.