How Does Dementia Kill You
Dementia is an umbrella term that covers many progressive brain diseases including Parkinsons, Alzheimers, and vascular dementia, among others. Patients of these diseases often exhibit different symptoms in the early stages of the specific disease they were diagnosed with but during the late stages, most symptoms are the same.
Its a common misconception that dementia itself doesnt kill the patient but rather major health events while suffering from dementia are the cause.
While its not uncommon for major health issues to be associated with dementia, the majority of patients die from the disease itself. That is why many experts recommend palliative care for patients in the end-stage of dementia. Rather than utilizing aggressive treatments for health problems caused by dementia, which cause additional distress and discomfort while rarely extending lifespan, they recommend keeping the patient comfortable and improving quality of life.
Here you can see the actual signs to look for in the end stages of dementia.
What I Wish I Knew Before My Mothers Alzheimers Death
As with many Alzheimers patients, it was the family who suggested my mother get her memory tested. She was 68 years old, repeating herself, losing things and occasionally paranoid and combative with my father, something we had never seen from her before. We thought she might be depressed, but the notion that she might have dementia crossed our minds. She was diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment, the earliest stage of forgetfulness, in 2008, but was not officially given the diagnosis of Alzheimers until 2010, when she had an epileptic seizure. After that, her memory and cognitive faculties deteriorated sharply.
This is not the story of an Alzheimers patient swinging between the ignorance of their forgetfulness and the panic of watching their own ongoing decline come into focus, nor the story of the fear, the bouts of irritability, and the deep sorrow felt by family members watching their loved one slowly disappear before their eyes. We went through all that, yes. But this is the story of the last three excruciating months of my mothers life. She died in her familys arms at the age of 76, having battled Alzheimers bravely for more than eight years.
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.
Is Alzheimers A Terminal Illness
This question has a fair amount of subtlety. I have treated it at greater length HERE. But, suffice it to say that there are broad and narrow conceptions for what a âterminal illnessâ is.
On the broad conception, a terminal illness is merely one that reduces your life expectancy and that you will you will have at the time of your death. Alzheimerâs surely fits this general description.
On the narrow definition, a terminal illness is one that you are expected to die from very soon â maybe within twelve or twenty-four months. A person recently diagnosed with mild-cognitive impairment or early-stage Alzheimerâs may have eight to ten years to live. So, on this narrow definition, âAlzheimerâsâ â by itself â may not be a terminal illness. However, we could say that late-stage Alzheimerâs could plausibly be construed as a terminal illness. Because, by the time a person enters Alzheimerâs advanced, end, or late stage, it may well be that their life expectancy has been reduced to one or two years.
For a more in-depth discussion of this issue, click HERE.
Dying From Dementia Four Dangerous Signs You Shouldnt Miss
The realization that your loved one is dying from dementia is difficult to digest. People are clueless, and they cant wrap their heads around this crude reality. These are undoubtedly devastating moments, but there is no point lamenting over it forever.
Start by studying the true nature of dementia so you can spot the symptoms easily. Dementia is aprogressive brain disease characterized by degeneration of cells that result inthe gradual onset of disabilities. Theearly signs of dementia are vague and arent immediately visible. Also, thereis no timeline to tell us how the effectsof dementia overtake patients.
It varies from one patient to another according to the type of dementia they have and their age. People who suffer from Alzheimers experience difficulty retaining new information such as names, recent events or conversations. These patients also show signs of depression.
With the progression of the disease, they become disoriented, confused and unable to communicate effectively. Similarly, the ones suffering from Lewy body dementia and Frontotemporal dementia reveal a different symptom pattern.
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How Is Alzheimers Disease Treated
Alzheimers is complex, and it is therefore unlikely that any one drug or other intervention will successfully treat it in all people living with the disease.
Scientists are exploring many avenues to delay or prevent the disease as well as to treat its symptoms. In ongoing clinical trials, scientists are developing and testing several possible interventions. Under study are drug therapies aimed at a variety of disease interventions, as well as nondrug approaches such as physical activity, diet, cognitive training, and combinations of these. Just as we have many treatments for heart disease and cancer, we will likely need many options for treating Alzheimers. Precision medicine getting the right treatment to the right person at the right time will likely play a major role.
Current approaches to treating Alzheimers focus on helping people maintain mental function, treating the underlying disease process, and managing behavioral symptoms.
What Are The Warning Signs That Life Is Nearing An End
When an elderly person with dementia is almost bearing their end, it can be very traumatic especially for the loved ones. It is important to have an idea of what signs one needs to expect when the end comes as this can give you some sort of comfort.
When you think of a condition such as Alzheimers disease, a person can live for over 10 years with it. It is possible to make the person happy over those years. Since we are not immortals, at some point life does come to an end when you have dementia and it is something that one needs to be prepared for especially if they are caregivers.
Handling the final stage of dementia is much easier, especially when you are aware of the things that you should expect. It is important to give the person the kind of care that will award him or her dignified and peaceful death.
Usually, when a person is about to reach the end, the dementia symptoms usually get worse and this can be quite upsetting. Some of the things that you may notice include:
- Limited mobility so they may have to be bed bound
- Limited speech or no speech at all
- Double incontinence
- Difficulties swallowing and eating
It is important to note that the above symptoms do not really mean that the person will just die. There are people who can have such symptoms for quite some time. You should also remember that about two-thirds of dementia patients succumb to other ailments such as pneumonia.
Some of the other signs that can indicate that death is indeed close include:
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Racial And Ethnic Differences In The Prevalence Of Alzheimer’s And Other Dementias
Although there are more non-Hispanic whites living with Alzheimer’s and other dementias than any other racial or ethnic group in the United States , older black/African Americans and Hispanics/Latinos are disproportionately more likely than older whites to have Alzheimer’s or other dementias., , – Most studies indicate that older black/African Americans are about twice as likely to have Alzheimer’s or other dementias as older whites., , Some studies indicate older Hispanics/Latinos are about one and one-half times as likely to have Alzheimer’s or other dementias as older whites.,, , However, Hispanics/Latinos comprise a very diverse group in terms of cultural history, genetic ancestry and health profiles, and there is evidence that prevalence may differ from one specific Hispanic/Latino ethnic group to another .,
There is evidence that missed diagnoses of Alzheimer’s and other dementias are more common among older black/African Americans and Hispanics/Latinos than among older whites., Based on data for Medicare beneficiaries age 65 and older, it has been estimated that Alzheimer’s or another dementia had been diagnosed in 10.3% of whites, 12.2% of Hispanics/Latinos and 13.8% of black/African Americans. Although rates of diagnosis were higher among black/African Americans than among whites, according to prevalence studies that detect all people who have dementia irrespective of their use of the health care system, the rates should be even higher for black/African Americans.
How Dementia Causes Death
A person in the late stage of dementia is at risk for many medical complications, like a;urinary tract infection and pneumonia . They’re at an even higher risk of certain conditions because they’re unable to move.
Trouble swallowing, eating, and drinking leads to weight loss, dehydration, and malnutrition. This further increases their risk of infection.
In the end, most people with late-stage dementia die of a medical complication related to their underlying dementia.
For example, a person may die from an infection like aspiration pneumonia. This type of pneumonia usually happens because of swallowing problems.
A person may also die from a blood clot in the lung because they are bedbound and not mobile.
It’s important to know that late-stage dementia is a terminal illness.;This means that dementia itself can lead to death. Sometimes this is appropriately listed as the cause of death on a death certificate.
What Is Alzheimers And Dementia
Dementia is a syndrome associated with the ongoing decline of brain function, and it can affect the memory, thinking skills and mental abilities of people with the condition.
Alzheimers disease is the most common type of dementia in the UK.
The disease most commonly affects people over the age of 65, affecting one in 14 people who are over the age of 65.
Young-onset Alzheimers disease can also affect people who are younger than 65, with one in 20 cases of Alzheimers disease diagnosed in people aged 40 to 65.
READ MORE:;Barbara Windsor dead after Alzheimers battle outlook of condition
Many people with Alzheimers disease may also die from another cause.
According to Alzheimers Society, people in later stages of dementia who do not have another life-limiting illness may get worse slowly over several months.
The charitys website explains people in the later stages of dementia will gradually become more frail, have more frequent falls or infections, become less mobile, sleep more or eat and talk less.
The charity adds: For someone in the later stages of dementia, the most common immediate cause of their death is an infection such as pneumonia.
At this point, the person is likely to be much frailer and have a weaker immune system, so is at greater risk of developing infections, which can last for a long time.
Alzheimers disease is a progressive neurological condition, which can cause people to have problems with swallowing.
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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Advance Directive For Receiving Oral Food And Fluids In The Event Of Dementia By End Of Life Choices New York
From End of Life Choices New York:
The directive provides a means for those diagnosed with dementia, while still retaining their decision-making capacity, to limit assisted feeding by hand when they reach the final/terminal stage of the disease. This terminal stage can last for months or even years if the patient continues to receive assisted hand feeding and other life-prolonging care. <
The instructions in the directive become effective when the patients appointed health care agent, in concert with the primary care physician, agrees that the patient is now in the final stage of dementia and is unable to make treatment decisions or to self-feed.
Our document permits a patient, while still decisionally capable, to choose between: stopping all life-prolonging measures including assisted oral feedings, or limiting hand feeding to comfort-focused feeding regardless of weight loss or intake. Either choice would be implemented along with thorough palliative or hospice care.
What Was My Experience With My Dad
As I have shared in other places , my dad, Jim, had Alzheimerâs for about ten years. In retrospect, his doctors led us to believe that he had been suffering through early stages of the disease before it was recognized for what it was. During that period of uncertainty, I attributed his attitude and behavioral changes to his becoming crotchety and temperamental.
But, most relevantly, he was diagnosed with arterial blockages and colon cancer. We nursed him through a triple bypass operation and a colectomy. I say that to mention this: For his age, my dad was otherwise physically healthy when his Alzheimerâs was finally diagnosed.
When he underwent heart surgery, he was literally at deathâs door, and he could have expired at any moment. But having had the two surgical interventions, he lived through a full progression of the various stages of his dementia.
We noticed the locomotive and speech degeneration that is typical of Alzheimerâs. Indeed, there were several episodes when he developed blood clots, pneumonia, and urinary-tract infections. He contracted a severe respiratory virus at least once and had a gastro-intestinal bug on another occasion. Any of these events could have resulted in his death. And Jim came close to dying during a few of them.
But, he didnât.
He held on. He came back.
He went into hospice care at least five times. And four times recovered enough to go off hospice.
He lasted in this state for about ten days.
This was exasperating news.
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What Are Some Complications
At some point, virtually all Alzheimerâs patients will have problems eating. They may stop eating entirely. This straightforwardly leads to malnutrition, weakness, weight loss, and starvation.
As mentioned, above, many Alzheimerâs-afflicted individuals lose the ability to walk. This general immobility leaves the person variously bedridden or wheelchair bound. Normal-functioning people may be at greater risk for health problems when they lead a sedentary lifestyle. But to be more or less completely stationary is much worse. Being motionless in this way can lead to bed sores and blot clots .
In advanced stages, the brain degenerates to the point where it is unable to properly regulate the body. This irregularity can precipitate all sorts of problems, including weakened immunity.
âAspirationâ occurs when a person accidentally inhales bits of food or drops of water. These then end up in the lungs. Without the ability to expel these foreign materials by coughing or sneezing, the individual is at great risk for infections and pneumonia.
Moreover, immune-compromised persons are more susceptible to infections and can develop serious conditions like sepsis.
Can Alzheimers Kill You Can You Die From Dementia
Actress Dame Barbara Windsor has died at the age 83 after battling Alzheimers disease for several years. Her husband Scott said in a tribute: It was not the ending that Barbara or anyone else living with this very cruel disease deserves. I will always be immensely proud of Barbaras courage, dignity and generosity dealing with her own illness and still trying to help others by raising awareness for as long as she could. Alzheimers disease is a common condition in the UK and in most cases affects older people.
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Stage 2: Age Associated Memory Impairment
This stage features occasional lapses of memory most frequently seen in:
- Forgetting where one has placed an object
- Forgetting names that were once very familiar
Oftentimes, this mild decline in memory is merely normal age-related cognitive decline, but it can also be one of the earliest signs of degenerative dementia. At this stage, signs are still virtually undetectable through clinical testing. Concern for early onset of dementia should arise with respect to other symptoms.
How Is Alzheimers Disease Diagnosed
Doctors use several methods and tools to help determine whether a person who is having memory problems has Alzheimers disease.
To diagnose Alzheimers, doctors may:
- Ask the person and a family member or friend questions about overall health, use of prescription and over-the-counter medicines, diet, past medical problems, ability to carry out daily activities, and changes in behavior and personality.
- Conduct tests of memory, problem solving, attention, counting, and language.
- Carry out standard medical tests, such as blood and urine tests, to identify other possible causes of the problem.
- Perform brain scans, such as computed tomography , magnetic resonance imaging , or positron emission tomography , to support an Alzheimers diagnosis or to rule out other possible causes for symptoms.
These tests may be repeated to give doctors information about how the persons memory and other cognitive functions are changing over time.
People with memory and thinking concerns should talk to their doctor to find out whether their symptoms are due to Alzheimers or another cause, such as stroke, tumor, Parkinsons disease, sleep disturbances, side effects of medication, an infection, or another type of dementia. Some of these conditions may be treatable and possibly reversible.
In addition, an early diagnosis provides people with more opportunities to participate in clinical trials or other research studies testing possible new treatments for Alzheimers.
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