Gene Wilder’s Death: How Do People Die From Alzheimer’s
29 August 2016
Legendary comedic actor Gene Wilder has died at age 83 from complications of Alzheimer’s disease, his family announced today. But what exactly does it mean to die from Alzheimer’s?
Although Alzheimer’s disease shortens people’s life spans, it is usually not the direct cause of a person’s death, according to the Alzheimer’s Society, a charity in the United Kingdom for people with dementia. Rather, people die from complications from the illness, such as infections or blood clots.
Alzheimer’s is a progressive brain disease in which abnormal protein deposits build up in the brain, causing brain cells to die. The illness is best known for causing memory loss, but it also has other debilitating effects on the body, and can affect people’s ability to move and eat by themselves. There is no cure for the illness.
Alzheimer’s patients may have difficulty swallowing, and they may inhale food, which can result in aspiration pneumonia, Dr. Marc L. Gordon, chief of neurology at Zucker Hillside Hospital in Queens, New York, who was not involved in Wilder’s care, told Live Science in a 2014 interview. Pneumonia is listed as the cause of death in as many as two-thirds of deaths of patients with dementia, according to the Alzheimer’s Society.
Alzheimer’s patients may also become bedridden, which can increase their risk of fatal blood clots, Gordon said.
Editor’s note: Portions of this article were previously published on LiveScience.
What Is The Average Life Expectancy
Life expectancy varies for each person with AD. The average life expectancy after diagnosis is eight to 10 years. In some cases, however, it can be as short as three years or as long as 20 years.
AD can go undiagnosed for several years, too. In fact, the average length of time between when symptoms begin and when an AD diagnosis is made is 2.8 years.
Trends In Dementia Caregiving
There is some indication that families are now better at managing the care they provide to relatives with dementia than in the past. From 1999 to 2015, dementia caregivers were significantly less likely to report physical difficulties and financial difficulties related to care provision. In addition, use of respite care by dementia caregivers increased substantially . However, as noted earlier, more work is needed to ensure that interventions for dementia caregivers are available and accessible to those who need them. A 2016 study of the Older Americans Act’s National Family Caregiver Support Program found that over half of Area Agencies on Aging did not offer evidence-based family caregiver interventions.
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Estimates Of The Number Of People With Alzheimer’s Dementia By State
Table lists the estimated number of people age 65 and older with Alzheimer’s dementia by state for 2020, the projected number for 2025, and the projected percentage change in the number of people with Alzheimer’s between 2020 and 2025.,
|Projected Number with Alzheimer’s||Percentage Increase|
- Created from data provided to the Alzheimer’s Association by Weuve et al.,
As shown in Figure , between 2020 and 2025 every state across the country is expected to experience an increase of at least 6.7% in the number of people with Alzheimer’s. These projected increases in the number of people with Alzheimer’s are due solely to projected increases in the population age 65 and older in these states. Because risk factors for dementia such as midlife obesity and diabetes can vary dramatically by region and state, the regional patterns of future burden may be different than reported here. Based on these projections, the West and Southeast are expected to experience the largest percentage increases in people with Alzheimer’s dementia between 2020 and 2025. These increases will have a marked impact on statesâ health care systems, as well as the Medicaid program, which covers the costs of long-term care and support for many older residents with dementia, including more than a quarter of Medicare beneficiaries with Alzheimer’s or other dementias.
What Does Age Have To Do With It
The age you are diagnosed with AD may have the greatest impact on your life expectancy. The earlier you are diagnosed, the longer you may live. Researchers at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health have discovered that the average survival time for people diagnosed at age 65 is 8.3 years. The average life expectancy for people diagnosed at age 90 is 3.4 years.
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Common Complications Of Alzheimers Disease That Cause Death
A lack of self-awareness and self-care, prolonged confinement to a bed, feeding failure, inability to receive proper nutrition and dehydration are all factors in the development of other life-threatening health conditions in dementia patients. While brain damage associated with AD is the driving force behind the patients cognitive decline and incapacitation, these secondary illnesses and conditions are ultimately responsible for causing the patients physical decline and death.
Complications of Alzheimers disease are commonly cited as such on death certificates. Because of this, deaths with a primary cause of AD and related dementias are seriously underreported. This is especially true since dementia can go unnoticed as it progresses slowly over the course of many years. Furthermore, a significant number of patients never receive an official neurological diagnosis while alive or after they have died.
Alzheimer’s Is Projected To Cripple America’s Healthcare System
- Total payments for health care, long-term care, and hospice for people with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias are projected to increase from $290 billion in 2018 to more than $1.1 trillion in 2050 .1 Annual healthcare spending averages $4,500 more for patients with Alzheimers than similar patients.8,9
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Late Stage Alzheimers Disease And Death
March 11, 2010 by John Collins
Of all of the stages of Alzheimers disease, late stage progressing into end stage Alzheimers and death may be the hardest to understand. There is no other outcome for this type of dementia. Every persons journey is different and unique but the destination is the same. Death. You may ask, why do I find so many different descriptions of late stage Alzheimers Disease and death.
There are the official, accepted versions that most doctors or Alzheimers organizations will tell you. These are often are generalizations and worded to ease the reality of the what will happen. This type of information is a good introduction but Id rather hear the cold hard facts.
The official descriptions of late stage Alzheimers disease, that the end is near and finally death are based on a collection of averages. A generalization of how the average person with Alzheimers will decline and die. The truth is we are still in the stone age when it comes to understanding Alzheimers disease.
You can find more realistic descriptions here and at other blogs and forums. Often discussed are what the person with Alzheimers will go through as they approach death and and finally die. You will see that each person with Alzheimers has a unique experience. We only know what the caregivers and family members describe. Not what the Alzheimers patient experiences.
The Overall Economic Impact Is Staggering
- Worldwide dementia care is estimated to cost upwards of US$1 trillion.4 According to the World Bank, thats roughly the same as the gross domestic product of Pakistan in 2017. According to public financial statements, that is more than the 2017 profits of Apple, J.P Morgan Chase and Berkshire Hathaway combined.7
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Risk Factors For Alzheimer’s Dementia
The vast majority of people who develop Alzheimer’s dementia are age 65 or older. This is called late-onset Alzheimer’s. Experts believe that Alzheimer’s, like other common chronic diseases, develops as a result of multiple factors rather than a single cause. Exceptions are cases of Alzheimer’s related to uncommon genetic changes that increase risk.
2.7.1 Age, genetics and family history
The greatest risk factors for late-onset Alzheimer’s are older age,, genetics, and having a family history of Alzheimer’s.-
Age is the greatest of these three risk factors. As noted in the Prevalence section, the percentage of people with Alzheimer’s dementia increases dramatically with age: 3% of people age 65-74, 17% of people age 75-84 and 32% of people age 85 or older have Alzheimer’s dementia. It is important to note that Alzheimer’s dementia is not a normal part of aging, and older age alone is not sufficient to cause Alzheimer’s dementia.
- One in 10 people age 65 and older has Alzheimer’s dementia.,,
- The percentage of people with Alzheimer’s dementia increases with age: 3% of people age 65-74, 17% of people age 75-84, and 32% of people age 85 and older have Alzheimer’s dementia. People younger than 65 can also develop Alzheimer’s dementia, but it is much less common and prevalence is uncertain.
3.1.1 Underdiagnosis of Alzheimer’s and other dementias in the primary care setting
3.1.2 Prevalence of subjective cognitive decline
How Alzheimer’s Causes Death
In late-stage Alzheimer’s disease, people become extremely confused and disoriented. The behavior of someone with late stage Alzheimer’s may become more agitated and restless, while other persons experience withdrawal and apathy. Sometimes, people with later stage dementia cry and call out. Eventually, they lose the ability to communicate, and they may not respond at all.
Additionally, people in the late stages are unable to care for themselves, becoming bedbound and completely dependent on others for their activities of daily living. Their ability to be continent of bowel and bladder declines.
Their appetite decreases as well, and eventually, they lose the ability to swallow, leading to poor nutrition and a high risk of aspiration. Aspiration, where a person’s food goes “down the wrong tube” when they swallow it, greatly increases the risk of pneumonia developing because they’re not able to fully cough and clear the food out of their esophagus and then it settles into their lungs.
Under these difficult conditions, it’s not hard to imagine how vulnerable people with late-stage dementia become, sometimes succumbing to infections, pressure sores, and pneumonia. One study found that half of all people with dementia admitted to a hospital for pneumonia or a hip fracture died within six months of leaving the hospital.
Other factors that impact the death rate in Alzheimer’s disease include advanced age, increased falls, and delirium.
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Possible Causes Of Death
With some diseases, you end up dying not from the disease itself, but from a complication related to the disease. This is true for dementia. Many people with dementia ultimately die from a complication of the disease. These include:
- Pneumonia: This is one of the biggest reasons why a person with dementia dies. They ultimately develop inflamed, infected lungs, which may be filled with fluid.
- Falls: Falling can be deadly for a senior citizen. Dementia can affect your balance and your ability to walk, so it’s not uncommon to see people with dementia struggling to stand up.
- Choking: Some dementia patients develop a form of pneumonia where food goes down the wrong tube. During the late stages of dementia, they may have trouble swallowing.
- Suicide: During the early stages of dementia, especially in the time immediately following a diagnosis, there may be an increased risk of suicide. Know that depression is an early sign of dementia.
- Bedsores: Prolonged pressure on a certain part of your body can create sores. In late-stage dementia, patients can find it hard to move or get out of bed, leading to bedsores.
- Stroke: This is one of the leading causes of death in the U.S. In some cases, dementia can make the brain bleed, which increases the risk of stroke.
- Heart Attack: Having dementia may also increase the risk of having a heart attack. As with a stroke, the patient’s heart needs to be monitored to prevent a heart attack before it happens.
How Long Until Death?
What Can I Do?
People Who Have Alzheimer’s Disease Need Others To Care For Them And Many Of Those Providing Care Are Not Paid For Their Time And Services
- More than 16 million Americans, usually family and friends, provide unpaid care for someone with Alzheimer’s disease or dementias.10 According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics11, that would be just shy of a tenth of the entire US workforce. In 2017, these people provided an estimated 18.5 billion hours of unpaid care, a contribution valued at more than $234 billion.1 This would be about 46% of Walmarts total revenue in 2017 12 and 10 times the total revenue of McDonald’s in 2017 .13
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Health Environmental And Lifestyle Factors
Research suggests that a host of factors beyond genetics may play a role in the development and course of Alzheimers. There is a great deal of interest, for example, in the relationship between cognitive decline and vascular conditions such as heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure, as well as conditions such as diabetes and obesity. Ongoing research will help us understand whether and how reducing risk factors for these conditions may also reduce the risk of Alzheimers.
A nutritious diet, physical activity, social engagement, and mentally stimulating pursuits have all been associated with helping people stay healthy as they age. These factors might also help reduce the risk of cognitive decline and Alzheimers. Researchers are testing some of these possibilities in clinical trials.
Stage : Mild Dementia
At this stage, individuals may start to become socially withdrawn and show changes in personality and mood. Denial of symptoms as a defense mechanism is commonly seen in stage 4. Behaviors to look for include:
- Difficulty remembering things about one’s personal history
- Difficulty recognizing faces and people
In stage 4 dementia, individuals have no trouble recognizing familiar faces or traveling to familiar locations. However, patients in this stage will often avoid challenging situations in order to hide symptoms or prevent stress or anxiety.
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What Goes On Medically
Medically, what goes on depends on which of the three possibilities obtains.
Suppose that the Alzheimerâs patient passes from a secondary condition. Then the medical cause of death will depend on the particulars of that condition. So, suppose that an immobile Alzheimerâs patient develops a blood clot in his or her calf. Doctors will try to treat the clot by using blood thinners. But, if the clot breaks loose a person can die any or three ways. Firstly, the clot could block an artery. This may happen any number of places, but it is most dangerous around the lungs. Called a âpulmonary embolism,â a blood clot near the lungs can cut off oxygen to the body and brain. Secondly, the clot could cause the person to go into cardiac arrest. If the clot passages into the heart, the heartâs pumping may become erratic and fatal arrhythmias may develop. Thirdly, the clot could go towards the brain, block an artery there, and cause a fatal stroke.
If a person develops pneumonia, then the main risk is that of infection. Pneumonia is characterized by a personâs having âfluid-filledâ sacs in the lungs. In the first place, the fluid impedes the lungâs ability to pass oxygen into the blood stream. But the fluid is also a breeding ground for bacteria. This bacteria can make its way into the blood, travel around to other organs, and cause a massive, whole-body infection that a person is unlikely to recover from.
Support For Families And Alzheimers Disease Caregivers
Caring for a person with Alzheimers can have significant physical, emotional, and financial costs. The demands of day-to-day care, changes in family roles, and decisions about placement in a care facility can be difficult. NIA supports efforts to evaluate programs, strategies, approaches, and other research to improve the quality of care and life for those living with dementia and their caregivers.
Becoming well-informed about the disease is one important long-term strategy. Programs that teach families about the various stages of Alzheimers and about ways to deal with difficult behaviors and other caregiving challenges can help.
Good coping skills, a strong support network, and respite care are other things that may help caregivers handle the stress of caring for a loved one with Alzheimers. For example, staying physically active provides physical and emotional benefits.
Some caregivers have found that joining a support group is a critical lifeline. These support groups enable caregivers to find respite, express concerns, share experiences, get tips, and receive emotional comfort. Many organizations sponsor in-person and online support groups, including groups for people with early-stage Alzheimers and their families.
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What Causes Alzheimers Disease
In recent years, scientists have made tremendous progress in better understanding Alzheimers and the momentum continues to grow. Still, scientists dont yet fully understand what causes Alzheimers disease in most people. In people with early-onset Alzheimers, a genetic mutation may be the cause. Late-onset Alzheimers arises from a complex series of brain changes that may occur over decades. The causes probably include a combination of genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors. The importance of any one of these factors in increasing or decreasing the risk of developing Alzheimers may differ from person to person.
Can A Person Die From Dementia
My Momma MCI and the first stage of dementia. Dementia scares me to death. I was also told that there are two kinds of Dementia. One is fast acting and the other is very slow. What tests can be done by a Neurologist to determine how a loved one has which kind? I’m a newbie to Dementia. I never had to personally deal with someone 24/7 that has it like I am now with Momma. Can both the fast acting and the slower kind actually kill the person that has Dementia? Forgive me if I hurt anyone’s feelings by asking this. I am just scared and Momma’s Neurologist just doesn’t seem too informative about Momma and her condition.
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