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Do You Forget How To Breathe With Alzheimer’s

Final Signs And What To Do

Dr. Bob DeMaria discusses Memory Care!! Alzheimer’s

If it has been established that the person is now dying and they become restless, this is often referred to as terminal restlessness. It is important to recognise restlessness and report it to a doctor or nurse immediately. Restlessness could be due to pain or high temperature and needs to be relieved.

If you notice the person is restless and you think they are uncomfortable, you could try helping them move into a more comfortable position. If this does not help, seek advice as they may need pain relief. Likewise, if you notice the person is hot to touch then they may need to be cooled down by a fan or cool flannel on their forehead and given rectal paracetamol by the nurse. They may also need medication to relieve the restlessness if the above does not help.

As death approaches the persons breathing pattern can change. This is caused by the person going into unconsciousness. It is often called Cheyne-Stoke breathing. The person may have periods where they have regular breathing, then stop breathing for a few seconds. Breathing usually gets faster and there can be long gaps in between. The person who is dying is unaware of this but family members may find this quite distressing. It is important that you or another senior member of staff explain to the relatives that this is what is to be expected and that the person is unaware. It is natural.

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.

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.

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Can Alzheimers Disease Cause You To Forget How To Breath

Can alzheimers disease cause you to forget how to breath?

Answer

No alzheimers disease is just something some old people get it gives them memory loss.It doesn’t happen to every one though, and sometimes you can make them remember things for a little while but eventually they’ll forget again.There is also no cure.

Virtual Teaching Assistant: Heather L.
Question Level: Basic

Support Care Staff And Colleagues

Don

It is important to remember that staff caring for a person in the last hours and days of their life may find this to be emotionally challenging or distressing. This may be especially so for those who have worked with the person for some time and who have built a meaningful relationship with that person and their family. Those newer to care work, or who have little previous experience of care at the end of life, may find this a worrying or stressful time. It is important that care staff are given support by managers and colleagues, are able to ask for advice and reassurance where needed, and have the space to acknowledge their feelings.

See End of life care and carers’ needs for more information.

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How You Can Help

  • It is important to note that people with dementia can have problems with walking that are not associated with dementia. Exhaustion and pain can limit how far a person can walk. Sometimes that pain can reflect an unattended problem in foot care or muscle fatigue.
  • The person you care for may also require a mobility aid, such as a walking cane or a wheelchair in order to feel secure. Sometimes just being physically present can provide your loved one with the confidence and security to walk.
  • Consider a physiotherapist: They can help with anything from exercises to strengthen muscles to walking aids.

It is not easy to care for someone with mobility constraints! Unfortunately, this issue is usually compounded with others, including constipation, blood clots, and pressure sores.

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.

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Outlook For Vascular Dementia

Vascular dementia will usually get worse over time. This can happen in sudden steps, with periods in between where the symptoms do not change much, but it’s difficult to predict when this will happen.

Home-based help will usually be needed, and some people will eventually need care in a nursing home.

Although treatment can help, vascular dementia can significantly shorten life expectancy.

But this is highly variable, and many people live for several years with the condition, or die from some other cause.

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with dementia, remember that you’re not alone. The NHS and social services, as well as voluntary organisations, can provide advice and support for you and your family.

The Seven Stages Of Dementia

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One of the most difficult things to hear about dementia is that, in most cases, dementia is irreversible and incurable. However, with an early diagnosis and proper care, the progression of some forms of dementia can be managed and slowed down. The cognitive decline that accompanies dementia conditions does not happen all at once – the progression of dementia can be divided into seven distinct, identifiable stages.

Learning about the stages of dementia can help with identifying signs and symptoms early on, as well as assisting sufferers and caretakers in knowing what to expect in further stages. The earlier dementia is diagnosed, the sooner treatment can start.

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Symptoms In The Later Stages

People in the later stages of dementia become increasingly frail and depend more on other people for support. As dementia progresses and causes changes to the person’s brain, they may struggle to do many of the things they used to. However, even in the later stages the person may experience moments of lucidity and some of their abilities may return temporarily.

The person’s reactions are likely to be influenced by their environment and how they feel. For example, they may react more positively if they are in a familiar environment or one where they feel comfortable.

People in the later stages of dementia often experience problems with the following:

  • memory
  • changes in behaviour.

Why Does Sleep Apnea Cause Cognitive Decline

Mild cognitive impairment is when your memory is affected to the point that its noticeable to others, but not enough to affect your daily life. People with mild cognitive decline may show some forgetfulness or amnesia of recent events. They often need to write notes to remind themselves to do things that they would otherwise forget.

The connection between sleep apnea and cognitive decline has long been suspected. But researchers recently confirmed that those who had sleep-disordered breathing had an earlier onset of mild cognitive impairment compared with people who didnt suffer from OSA.

Whats more, other studies have shown those with sleep apnea were diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment an average of 10 years earlier than people without sleep breathing problems. And numerous other studies have made the connection between sleep apnea and dementia.

But there is hope. Researchers also found that people who treated their sleep breathing problems with a continuous positive airway pressure machine, or CPAP, were diagnosed with memory and thinking problems about 10 years later than people whose problems were not treated.

CPAP is the treatment of choice for sleep apnea, Dr. Mehra says. With this treatment, you wear a face or nasal mask while you sleep. The mask is connected to a pump and provides a flow of air into your nasal passages to keep your airways open.

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What Are The Signs Of End

It is important for caregivers to know when an individual with dementia is close to the end of their life, because it helps ensure they receive the right amount of care at the right time. It can be difficult to know exactly when this time is due to the variable nature of dementias progression, but understanding common end-of-life symptoms of seniors with dementia can help. Below is a timeline of signs of dying in elderly people with dementia:

Final Six Months

  • A diagnosis of another condition such as cancer, congestive heart failure or COPD
  • An increase in hospital visits or admissions

Final Two-to-Three Months

  • Speech limited to six words or less per day
  • Difficulty in swallowing or choking on liquids or food
  • Unable to walk or sit upright without assistance
  • Incontinence
  • Hands, feet, arms and legs may be increasingly cold to the touch
  • Inability to swallow
  • Terminal agitation or restlessness
  • An increasing amount of time asleep or drifting into unconsciousness
  • Changes in breathing, including shallow breaths or periods without breathing for several seconds or up to a minute

Patients with dementia are eligible to receive hospice care if they have a diagnosis of six months or less to live if the disease progresses in a typical fashion. Once a patient begins experiencing any of the above symptoms, it is time to speak with a hospice professional about how they can help provide added care and support.

How Can You Recognise When A Person Is Dying

Shortness of Breath and Dementia

Recognising when a person with advanced dementia is dying may not always be easy as they may have many general signs and symptoms of dying already. For example, some common signs and symptoms seen in people dying are:

  • profound weakness
  • needing assistance with all care
  • disorientation to time or place
  • agitated or restless
  • difficulty concentrating.

People with advanced dementia may show some of these signs and symptoms for months or even years making it hard to tell if the person is approaching death. However, if these symptoms become much worse over a period of two to three weeks, or even days or hours, it is important that a doctor or nurse sees the person. If the doctor or nurse thinks that the person is deteriorating or nearing the end of life and it would be in the persons best interest to be cared for in their own home, a care home or hospice then discuss this information with the persons family. They should also be given an explanation of why the deterioration is happening and the care that is going to be given. When death is expected it is usally not of benefit for the purpose with dementia to be sent to hospital: the death is more likely to be traumatic, unsupported and complicated by other medical events .

When the dying process is established, the person may experience further changes:

  • losing consciousness
  • no longer able to swallow
  • terminal restlessness
  • changes to breathing pattern and circulation .

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Getting Prepared For A Death

Care staff need to know the persons wishes for their death: where they would prefer to be when they die, who should be present, how pain might be treated, and so on. A persons spiritual and cultural needs are important throughout their life, but may take on a particular significance at the end of their life. We can only support a person nearing death properly if we know this information and have recorded it accurately so they have the best possible, and personalised, end-of-life care

Ensuring that a person is as physically comfortable as possible when they are dying also takes preparation. Is a hospital-style bed available, for example, if it is needed? Is a suitable mattress to hand? How can dignity best be maintained if all personal care is provided at a persons bedside? Does the persons room need to be altered in any way, for example fitting new lighting?

Relatives also need to be prepared. For family, having a good relationship with care staff may be a critical part of the lead-in to this dying phase. You also need to know family members wishes at this time. For example, do they want to be present for the death if possible?

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
  • Disorientation
  • 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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Stage : Mild Cognitive Impairment

Clear cognitive problems begin to manifest in stage 3. A few signs of stage 3 dementia include:

  • Getting lost easily
  • Noticeably poor performance at work
  • Forgetting the names of family members and close friends
  • Difficulty retaining information read in a book or passage
  • Losing or misplacing important objects
  • Difficulty concentrating

Patients often start to experience mild to moderate anxiety as these symptoms increasingly interfere with day to day life. Patients who may be in this stage of dementia are encouraged to have a clinical interview with a clinician for proper diagnosis.

What Happens In The Later Stages Of Dementia

Guided Meditation Activity for People with Mild to Moderate Dementia
  • Progressive loss of memoryThis can be a particularly disturbing time for family and carers as the person with dementia may fail to recognise close family members.
  • Increased loss of physical abilitiesMost people with dementia gradually lose their ability to walk, wash, dress and feed themselves. Other illnesses such as stroke or arthritis may also affect them. Eventually the person will be confined to a bed or a chair.
  • Increased difficulty communicatingA person with dementia will have increasing difficulty in understanding what is said or what is going on around them. They may gradually lose their speech, or repeat a few words or cry out from time to time. But continuing to communicate with them is very important. Remember, although many abilities are lost as dementia progresses, some – such as the sense of touch and ability to respond to emotions – remain.
  • Problems eatingIt is common for people in the later stages of dementia to lose a considerable amount of weight. People may forget how to eat or drink, or may not recognise the food they are given. Some people become unable to swallow properly. Providing nutrition supplements may need to be considered. If a person has swallowing difficulties, or is not consuming food or drink over a significant period of time and their health is affected, nutrition supplements may be considered for consumption other than by mouth.

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Stage : Moderate Dementia

Patients in stage 5 need some assistance in order to carry out their daily lives. The main sign for stage 5 dementia is the inability to remember major details such as the name of a close family member or a home address. Patients may become disoriented about the time and place, have trouble making decisions, and forget basic information about themselves, such as a telephone number or address.

While moderate dementia can interfere with basic functioning, patients at this stage do not need assistance with basic functions such as using the bathroom or eating. Patients also still have the ability to remember their own names and generally the names of spouses and children.

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