How Long Will A Person With Dementia Live For
Dementia is a life-limiting condition, but it is very difficult to know how long someone with dementia will live for. This depends on many factors.
If the person also has another life-limiting condition , it may be clearer how long they may live for and how they will die.
A person may die from another condition at any stage of having dementia. Because of this, they may die before their dementia symptoms become very advanced.
A person in the later stages of dementia may get worse slowly over many months. During this time they will usually:
- become more frail
- have more frequent falls or infections
- have problems eating, drinking and swallowing
- be more likely to need urgent medical care
- become less mobile
- sleep more
- talk less often.
A person in the later stages of dementia is likely to have a weak immune system. This means they have a higher risk of getting infections, which in some cases can last for a long time. One of the most common causes of death for people with dementia is pneumonia caused by an infection.
A person in the later stages of dementia may have symptoms that suggest that they are close to death, but can sometimes live with these symptoms for many months. This uncertainty makes it very difficult to plan and put things in place for the end of someones life.
Why Dementia Gets Worse When The Sun Goes Down
- This is the final week of our major Good Health series on dementia
- We turn our attention to carers and what can be done to make life easier
- In England there are more than 670,000 unpaid carers helping someone
- We explain what to if they become anxious as the light starts to fade
18:54 EST, 13 April 2015 | Updated:
Looking after someone with dementia can stretch people to their limits, and there are many in this situation. In England alone, there are more than 670,000 unpaid carers helping someone with dementia.
Here, in the final week of our major Good Health series on dementia, we turn our attention to the carers and what can be done to make life easier for them and their loved ones…
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Looking after someone with dementia can stretch people to their limits. Here’s how to make life easier
WHAT TO EXPECT
The early stages of the disease bring changes that may be so subtle that some friends and acquaintances are unaware that there is anything wrong – and this stage can continue for many years.
But as the disease progresses and more damage is done to the brain, symptoms become more pronounced: difficulties with communication become more intense and issues such as getting dressed or managing day-to-day affairs become more problematic.
This marks the beginning of the middle stage, the longest stage, which can last for several years. It’s when the condition becomes more challenging and extra help may be needed.
How Do I Avoid Getting Lost
You may not be able to find your way around as well as you used to, even in familiar places. Take steps to prepare, such as:
- Ask someone to go with you when you go out. Take directions with you, even if youâre going somewhere youâve been before.
- Ask for help if you need it. If you want to, you can explain that you have a memory problem.
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Dont Say No Dont Or Cant
One of the biggest mistakes in dealing with patients and/or loved ones with memory loss is being negative and telling them that they cant do something. Words like no,” don’t, or can’t create resistance. This comes up regularly with family members when the patient and/or loved one might be still driving, and the caregiver and/or family member has made the decision to stop them from driving. One should never say, You can’t drive anymore. They can still technically drive , and they can get very combative when told no. A way to counter this is to say, I know you still can drive, that’s not even a question, but you know what happened the other day? I was out on the highway and this car cut me off, and I had to make a split-second decision it was really scary Its likely they will say, You know what? I’m having a little trouble with those decisions too. The issue isn’t the mechanical driving, it has more to do with comprehension, and many times this answer works much better than, You can’t drive anymore, which can be construed as confrontational.
You may find a patient and/or loved one up too early or confused about time. Instead of using messages such as, Youre up too early, you need to go to bed, try leading with statements such as, You know, I’m getting sleepy. Id like a little snack before I go to bed, and then gesture for the patient and/or loved one to sit with you.
Ten Tips For Communicating With A Person With Dementia
We arenât born knowing how to communicate with a person with dementiaâbut we can learn. Improving your communication skills will help make caregiving less stressful and will likely improve the quality of your relationship with your loved one. Good communication skills will also enhance your ability to handle the difficult behavior you may encounter as you care for a person with a dementing illness.
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A Note About Unproven Treatments
Some people are tempted by untried or unproven “cures” that claim to make the brain sharper or prevent dementia. Be cautious of pills, supplements, brain training computer games, or other products that promise to improve memory or prevent brain disorders. These might be unsafe, a waste of money, or both. They might even interfere with other medical treatments. Currently there is no drug or treatment that prevents Alzheimer’s or related dementias.
However, there are currently several drugs available by prescription to safely treat the symptoms of early and mid-stage Alzheimer’s. If you have been diagnosed with dementia, your doctor may suggest that you take one of them.
How to protect yourself and others from unproven treatments:
- Beware if the product claim seems too promising and if it conflicts with what youve heard from your health care provider.
- Question any product that claims to be a scientific breakthrough. Companies marketing these products often take advantage of people when they are most vulnerable and looking for a miracle cure.
- Check with your doctor or health care professional before buying any product, including those labeled as dietary supplements, that promises to improve your memory or prevent dementia.
- Report any products or supplements being advertised as a treatment for Alzheimer’s or other diseases on the U.S. Food and Drug Administrations website.
What Should Be Your Role As A Caregiver In The End
During the final stage of dementia, the affected individual becomes completely dependent on the people around them to carry out basic activities.
If a person is a caregiver, they need to take care of the patient regarding certain important aspects, including:
The appetite of the affected individual may decrease in the final stages of dementia due to the inability to stay physically active. They may forget to eat food or drink fluids.
To help ensure that the person in the final stage of dementia receives adequate nutrition, try the following tips:
Bowel and bladder function
The patient may eventually lose control of bladder and bowel function in the final stage of dementia.
To maintain bowel and bladder function, try the following tips:
Skin and bone health
A patient with end-stage Alzheimers disease can eventually become bedridden or chair-bound. This can result in skin breakdown, pressure sores, and freezing of joints .
To keep the skin healthy and bones functioning, try the following tips:
Good oral hygiene reduces the risk of bacteria in the mouth that can lead to infections, including pneumonia. Brush the patients teeth every time after the patient eats. If the patient wears dentures, remove them and clean them every night.
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Vascular Dementia: A Problem With Blood Vessels
Vascular dementia occurs when damage to blood vessels blocks blood flow to the brain, depriving brain cells of the oxygen and nutrients they need.
The progression of the resulting dementia depends in part on where and how the blockage occurred.
Damage to small blood vessels deep in the brain can cause dementia that worsens gradually, like Alzheimers disease.
When damage is due to a major stroke or a series of small strokes, symptoms occur suddenly. Instead of becoming worse gradually, symptoms plateau for long periods, followed by short, intense periods of change.
A person with early-stage vascular dementia will have difficulty planning and organizing, completing multistep tasks, and making decisions. Their thinking will also slow and they will have problems concentrating, with brief periods of confusion.
Mood swings, apathy, and heightened emotions are common. People with vascular dementia are also vulnerable to depression and anxiety.
As the disease progresses, symptoms are more likely to resemble those of middle and eventually later-stage Alzheimers disease: increasing memory loss, confusion, disorientation, and problems with reasoning and communication.
As with Alzheimers, irritability and agitation tend to increase, as do delusions and hallucinations.
Although each person with vascular disease will have a unique experience, patients live, on average, for five years after the onset of symptoms. Death is often due to a stroke or heart attack.
How Can I Support Someone With Dementia Towards The End Of Life
Knowing the person will make it easier to provide person-centred care that is focused on what they need and want. It can help to know about their likes, dislikes and their wishes for how they want to be cared for. If the person isnt able to tell you about themselves, speak to their family, friends or other people who know them well.
Its a good idea to find out if the person has a copy of This is me , a document that records information about themselves. If you cant speak to the person, ask those close to them if they have a copy. They may have these details recorded in their care plan.
There are many ways to support someone with dementia at the end of life.
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What Are The Main Types Of Dementia
Alzheimers disease is the most common cause of dementia, accounting for around 2 out of every 3 of cases in older people. Vascular dementia is another common form, while dementia with Lewy bodies and frontotemporal dementia are less common.
It is possible to have more than one type of dementia at the same time. Alzheimers is sometimes seen with vascular dementia or dementia with Lewy bodies. You might hear this called mixed dementia.
The symptoms of dementia vary depending on the disease, or diseases, causing it. You can read more about the symptoms associated with different types of dementia on the Alzheimers Society website .
What Support Is Available For Me If I Care For Someone With Dementia
When youre caring for someone else, it can be easy to overlook your own needs. But looking after your health and making time for yourself can help you feel better and more able to cope with your caring role.
Caring for someone with dementia can lead to feelings of guilt, sadness, confusion or anger. Unlike with other conditions, it can be difficult to share these feelings with someone with dementia, leaving you feeling very isolated.
Its important to acknowledge these feelings, and to remember that theres no right or wrong way to feel. If youre feeling anxious or depressed, or you’re struggling to cope, talk to your doctor who can let you know about the help and support available to you.
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Dying From Dementia With Late
The death of your loved one can be a hard concept to wrap your head around and accept. But knowing what to expect can help you when your loved one has late-stage dementia. It might help to understand what’s coming in the future so you can prepare emotionally and practically.
This article explains how dementia progresses and what happens during late-stage dementia.
End Of Life Dementia Care And Covid
Older adults and people with serious underlying medical conditions are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19. Older adults also have the highest rates of dementia. Given the risks that older adults face from both COVID-19 and dementia, its important to understand how to protect yourself and your loved one. Find more information about dementia and COVID-19 from the CDC.
When a dementia like Alzheimers disease is first diagnosed, if everyone understands that there is no cure, then plans for the end of life can be made before thinking and speaking abilities fail and the person with Alzheimers can no longer legally complete documents like advance directives.
End-of-life care decisions are more complicated for caregivers if the dying person has not expressed the kind of care he or she would prefer. Someone newly diagnosed with Alzheimers disease might not be able to imagine the later stages of the disease.
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Tips For Caregivers On Dealing With Hallucinations & Delusions
Consult a physician if your loved one is having delusions or hallucinations, to rule out other causes unrelated to dementia. Mental illness and medical conditions such as migraines, brain tumors, epilepsy, urinary tract infections, and dehydration can all be causes.
Resist the need to stop or control difficult behaviors. Think carefully about whether or not your loved one is causing a problem. If the answer is no, try letting it be. This is not to say that you have to lie to or humor your loved one you can be honest while also showing respect. For example, you might say, I dont hear or see anyone outside the window, but I know you do, and you seem worried.
Consider the situation. Investigate why a hallucination or delusion is occurring in that particular moment. Beyond mental and medical causes, there can also be environmental and social causes as well.
Keep a journal to record when, where, and how your loved one experiences delusions or hallucinations. Record how your loved one is behaving, and what sorts of events have happened recently.
Control the environment. Make sure there is sufficient lighting in the room and not too many distractions. A radio or TV, for example, might cause your loved one to hear voices and not understand that whats coming from the speakers is not actually in the room. Also, pulling curtains or shades can provide comfort for someone afraid of being watched.
Repetitive Speech Or Actions
People with dementia will often repeat a word, statement, question, or activity over and over. While this type of behavior is usually harmless for the person with dementia, it can be annoying and stressful to caregivers. Sometimes the behavior is triggered by anxiety, boredom, fear, or environmental factors.
- Provide plenty of reassurance and comfort, both in words and in touch.
- Try distracting with a snack or activity.
- Avoid reminding them that they just asked the same question. Try ignoring the behavior or question, and instead try refocusing the person into an activity such as singing or âhelpingâ you with a chore.
- Donât discuss plans with a confused person until immediately prior to an event.
- You may want to try placing a sign on the kitchen table, such as, âDinner is at 6:30â or âLois comes home at 5:00â to remove anxiety and uncertainty about anticipated events.
- Learn to recognize certain behaviors. An agitated state or pulling at clothing, for example, could indicate a need to use the bathroom.
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Memory In The Later Stages Of Dementia
The person may believe they are living in an earlier time period from their life . This can mean they say things and behave in ways that don’t make sense to those around them. The person may also confuse those around them for someone else .
The person may respond and experience emotions related to how they felt in the past. The person’s emotions are often related to how they’re currently seeing their situation – for instance, they might become distressed because they believe they need to go and collect their children from school but they are being prevented from doing this.
The person may no longer be able to recognise themselves or other people such as their partner, friends and family. This may also be due to them believing they are in a different time period, and this can be very difficult for the person and those around them.
The person may become upset when looking at themselves in the mirror or think there are strangers in the house, for example. It can be extremely difficult when someone with dementia is not able to remember their own family or close friends. Don’t take this personally. This memory loss is caused by the progression of the dementia.
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