Be Aware Of Their Eating And Drinking
The person may have lost their appetite or have difficulties swallowing safely. In the last days, the person may stop eating or drinking. This can be very distressing to watch, but it is normal for people approaching the end of life.
You should offer the person food and drink for as long as it is safe and they show an interest. Its important to keep the persons mouth comfortable provide sips of fluids and keep lips moist and clean.
Alzheimers Disease Is Considered Fatal Because It Often Leads To Death But Dying Of Alzheimers Is A Bit More Complicated Than That
Alzheimers disease is a neurodegenerative disorder that affects more than six million Americans aged 65 or older. It is characterized by the loss of memory and other cognitive functions, as well as the buildup of certain proteins, like beta-amyloid and tau, in the brain. Because it has no cure and often leads to death, Alzheimers is considered a fatal disease. But death from Alzheimers isnt that straightforward.
In fact, as one 2020 study in JAMA Neurology found, dementias including Alzheimers may be underreported as a cause of death by as many as nearly three times. Thats because, while neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimers are the underlying cause of death, many death certificates list the complications caused by dementia as the reason for death instead.
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.
You May Like: What Causes Senile Dementia
Causes Of Vascular Dementia
Vascular dementia is caused by reduced blood flow to the brain, which damages and eventually kills brain cells.
This can happen as a result of:
- narrowing and blockage of the small blood vessels inside the brain
- a single stroke, where the blood supply to part of the brain is suddenly cut off
- lots of “mini strokes” that cause tiny but widespread damage to the brain
Tackling these might reduce your risk of vascular dementia in later life, although it’s not yet clear exactly how much your risk of dementia can be reduced.
Towards The End Of Life
It can be very difficult for family and carers to prepare for the end, but by thinking about it and making some plans, it may be a little easier. When someone reaches the final stages of life one of the main concerns is to ensure that they are comfortable and as pain free as possible. If you are concerned that the person with dementia may be in some pain or discomfort, discuss this with the doctor and nursing staff.
Read Also: Margaret Thatcher Dementia
Do Treatments Add Time To Life Expectancy
Experts simply dont know whether treatments help a person live longer with Alzheimers disease. AD and other similar dementias progress no matter what. Treatments like medications and therapies have been conclusively shown to help manage symptoms, meaning they make it easier to live with the disease, but they do not reverse symptoms. The memory of a person with dementia who takes medications like cholinesterase inhibitors, for example, will be slightly better than the memory of someone who is not on medication. Quality of life therefore improves with treatment. This means better years with dementia, but probably not more years.
Youll Probably Need To Build A Support Network
Caring for someone in late stage dementia can be intense, demanding, and rewarding all in a single day. Youll be better equipped for the challenge if you can call on a varied group of support providers.
Nurses, doctors, home health aides, physical and occupational therapists, and hospice workers can help you take care of physical and medical needs. Mental health professionals, members of a faith community, and friends can help you meet emotional, social, and spiritual needs.
Don’t Miss: Alzheimers Dement
How Might Dementia Affect People Towards The End Of Life
Dementia is progressive, which means it gets worse over time. In the last year of life, its likely to have a big impact on the persons abilities including memory, communication and everyday activities. The speed at which someone will get worse will depend on the type of dementia they have and who they are as an individual.
The symptoms of later stage dementia include the following:
A person with later stage dementia often deteriorates slowly over many months. They gradually become more frail, and will need more help with everyday activities such as eating, dressing, washing and using the toilet. People may experience weight loss, as swallowing and chewing become more difficult.
A person with later-stage dementia may also have symptoms that suggest they are close to death, but continue to live with these symptoms for many months. This can make it difficult for the person and their family to plan for the end of life. It also makes it difficult for those supporting them professionally.
For more information on supporting someone with later stage dementia see Alzheimers Society factsheet, The later stages of dementia .
Understanding The Complications Of Dementia: Why Is Dementia Fatal
Did you know that dementia isone of the top causes of death in the U.S.? So, how do people die from dementia, and how does this relate to Alzheimers disease?
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimers disease, you probably have many questions. Youre not alone. Millions of Americans and more around the globe suffer fromAlzheimers disease, the most common form of dementia.
Dementia patients experience a progressive decline in mental abilities, including loss of memory, judgment, and language skills. In its later stages, Alzheimers may affect essential functions such as swallowing or breathing.
In this article, well share the answers to common questions surrounding dementia such as:
- Can dementia lead to death?
- Does dementia cause death?
- What usually causes death in Alzheimers patients?
- How many people die from dementia?
- How do people die from dementia?
Learning more about dementia and how it can be fatal is a necessary step in helping those suffering. With the right knowledge andspecialized care, those with dementia and Alzheimers can enjoy a better quality of life.
But before we answer the question, Can a person die from dementia? lets first explore what dementia is.
Don’t Miss: Alzheimer’s Disease Ribbon Color
Who Has Alzheimers Disease
Scientists do not yet fully understand what causes Alzheimers disease. There probably is not one single cause, but several factors that affect each person differently.
- 5 million Americans are estimated to be living with Alzheimers disease.2
- The symptoms of the disease usually appear after age 60 and the risk increases with age.
- Younger people may get Alzheimers disease, but it is less common.
Currently there is no cure for Alzheimers disease, people should see a doctor if they experience symptoms such as memory loss affecting their daily life, difficulties with problem solving, or misplacing objects.
Alzheimers disease-related deaths increased over the past 16 years in every race, sex, and ethnicity category. More persons with Alzheimers disease are dying at home, and this means more caregivers are needed especially for care in the final stages of Alzheimers disease is very great.
Get Dementia Care From The Top Home Care Providers In Phoenix Az
Do you have a family member or loved one suffering from dementia? Call and talk to one of our staff at Devoted Guardians. We are one of Arizonas largest home care providers with personnel trained in dementia care. We offer daily 24-hour living assistance, including nighttime watch, and personal care.
Read Also: Where Does Bobby Knight Live
Can You Die From Dementia
Dementia is usually considered a disorder affecting memory and is associated with aging. In the initial stages, this could be true. Loss of memory is one of the earliest signs of the disease.
However, according to experts, dementia is a fatal brain failure that needs to be taken seriously like other terminal diseases that kill a patient slowly. It is not just an ailment that is associated with the elderly.
Even though the distinction is not really known in the medical field and to the general public, it is something that needs to be considered when one has to be treated at the very end stage of the condition.
It is believed that the fact that people are misinformed and misguided about dementia, the end stage treatment is usually made very aggressive.
The disease progresses quite slowly and the fact that it affects so many people means that it should be taken seriously. Dementia is a collection or a consequence of different diseases like Alzheimers disease, vascular dementia, and Parkinsons disease. In later stages, you can tell the type of dementia that is affecting a certain patient.
The patient can have eating problems, pneumonia, fever, pain, and difficulty breathing, which are all caused by the failure of the brain. In the end, dementia involves so many other parts of the body.
It is important to appreciate that the brain is the engine of our bodies. It controls everything, including metabolism, gastrointestinal tract, the lungs, and even the heart.
What Else Are The Experts Saying
The recent research shows that the mortality rate for dementia, which was the second leading cause of death for the previous four years, has more than doubled since 2010. This has led to urgent calls for increased research and advances in treatments. Hilary Evans, chief executive of Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:
“These figures once again call attention to the uncomfortable reality that currently, no-one survives a diagnosis of dementia. Dementia is not an inevitable part of ageing, it’s caused by diseases that can be fought through research, and we must bring all our efforts to bear on what is now our greatest medical challenge.”
Martina Kane, of the Alzheimer’s Society, also highlighted the need for increased services.
“It is essential that people have access to the right support and services to help them live well with dementia and that research into better care, treatments and eventually a cure remain high on the agenda.”
For more information about the signs and symptoms of dementia, visit our fact page. If you are concerned about dementia, visit your GP.
Don’t Miss: Does Bobby Knight Have Dementia
How Do You Die From Dementia
Even though immediate death from dementia or Alzheimers is unlikely, dementia-related diseases often contribute to other factors that can lead to death. Like dementia itself, these factors are usually progressive and develop slowly over time. And though theres no cure for dementia, there are ways to care for a loved one with these conditions so they can live as long and pain-free as possible.
Alzheimers is a specific form of dementia, so How do you die from dementia? and How do you die from Alzheimers? are closely related. Heres how Dementia can contribute to a loved one passing.
Evidence That Life Expectancy Calculators For Dementia Actually Work
It turns out that the length of time a person has before needing full-time care, before moving into a care community, and before dying can all be predicted somewhat accurately. This information, though not definitive, can help families get a general understanding of how to plan for the future and what to expect as the disease progresses.
In a study conducted at the department of neurology in Columbia University, groups of people with mild Alzheimers were followed for 10 years and assessed semiannually. Data from these assessments were plugged into a complicated algorithm. The people studied were tested for the following:
Mental status score Cognition and function Motor skills Psychology and behavior Basic demographic information
Other experiments have yielded similar results. A University of Kentucky study analyzed the records of more than 1,200 people with dementia and found that it was possible to accurately predict their life expectancy. Researchers looked at many variables including family history and medical problems like high blood pressure and heart disease, and ultimately realized it came down to three things:
age when the first symptoms appeared gender how impaired someone was when diagnosis was first made
You May Like: Quality Of Life Alzheimer’s Disease
Support Their Cultural And Spiritual Needs
Its good to be aware of the persons cultural and spiritual needs and make sure these are respected and supported. You can make use of any advance care plans or documents, friends and family input and your knowledge of the person. Its important to try and meet these needs as much as possible, they are just as important as medical care.
Tests For Vascular Dementia
There’s no single test for vascular dementia.
The tests that are needed to make a diagnosis include:
- an assessment of symptoms for example, whether these are typical symptoms of vascular dementia
- a full medical history, including asking about a history of conditions related to vascular dementia, such as strokes or high blood pressure
- an assessment of mental abilities this will usually involve several tasks and questions
- a brain scan, such as an MRI scan or CT scan, to look for any changes that have happened in your brain
Find out more about the tests used to diagnose dementia.
Also Check: Aphasia Alzheimer’s Disease
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.
How Do You Know When A Dementia Patient Is Dying
Since a patient with dementia may have trouble communicating, its important to monitor for signs of pain or discomfort. End-stage dementia symptoms may indicate that the patient is dying or close to death:
- Problems with everyday functions, including bathing, dressing, eating, and going to the bathroom
- Inability to walk or sit up in bed without assistance
- Inability to speak and show facial expressions
- Dehydration and malnutrition due to trouble swallowing, eating, and drinking
- Increased risk of medical conditions such as urinary tract infections, aspiration pneumonia, skin breakdown, pressure ulcers , or blood clots
- Agitation, restlessness, moaning, and changes in breathing
Read Also: Alzheimer’s And Dementia Ribbon
Bring Hope To Dementia Patients With Stowell Associates
If you have a friend or loved one diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimers disease, you may have many questions, like:
- What is dementia?
- How do people die from dementia?
- Why is dementia fatal?
Dementia is a progressive disease, meaning that the complications of dementia get worse over time. Individuals with dementia often start with symptoms like forgetting new names and places. As dementia progresses, individuals can become confused in familiar places and even lose the ability to swallow or walk.
Its often these more progressive symptoms that attribute to someones death, not the dementia itself.
But just because a loved one has dementia doesnt mean they cant enjoy life. There are still many things you can do to improve their quality of life, and getting professional in-home care is a good place to start.
The professional caregivers at Stowell Associates are here to help care for your aging loved ones. As a leading provider ofcaregiver and care management services in Milwaukee, Kenosha, Racine, and Waukesha, WI, Stowell can assist families and patients with:
- Dementia Care