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 Is Frontotemporal Dementia
Frontotemporal dementia , a common cause of dementia, is a group of disorders that occur when nerve cells in the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain are lost. This causes the lobes to shrink. FTD can affect behavior, personality, language, and movement.
These disorders are among the most common dementias that strike at younger ages. Symptoms typically start between the ages of 40 and 65, but FTD can strike young adults and those who are older. FTD affects men and women equally.
The most common types of FTD are:
- Frontal variant. This form of FTD affects behavior and personality.
- Primary progressive aphasia. Aphasia means difficulty communicating. This form has two subtypes:
- Progressive nonfluent aphasia, which affects the ability to speak.;
- Semantic dementia, which affects the ability to use and understand language. ;
A less common form of FTD affects movement, causing symptoms similar to Parkinson disease or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis .
Offer Touch And Human Contact
Sit with the person, hold their hand and talk to them as if they can still hear you. Hearing can be the last sense that a person loses at death. This shows that you care and shows respect. If family are at their loved ones bedside, stay with the person when the relative has a break, and again hold the persons hand.
The care team would need to plan how you can provide this kind of one-to-one support.
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What Happens To The Brain In Alzheimer’s Disease
The healthy human brain contains tens of billions of neuronsspecialized cells that process and transmit information via electrical and chemical signals. They send messages between different parts of the brain, and from the brain to the muscles and organs of the body. Alzheimers disease disrupts this communication among neurons, resulting in loss of function and cell death.
Are There Any Treatments For Dementia
At this time there is no treatment for dementia. There is only medical care that can help manage symptoms and support people through their gradual decline.;
The options for proper medical care with the diagnosis often include specialty caregivers, individual and family support groups, healthy diet and exercise, and frequent check-ins with your doctor.;
Depending on which stage of dementia you or your loved one is in, the level of care required will vary. Someone in the earlier stages might need little to no care if symptoms are mild and not affecting daily life.
On the other hand, someone in the final stages of dementia will most certainly require 24/7 caregiving and constant supervision. If they dont have the proper care they need to avoid a risk factor such as choking or falling, it could lead to death.;
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How Is Frontotemporal Dementia Diagnosed
Family members are often the first to notice subtle changes in behavior or language skills. Its important to see a healthcare provider as early as possible to discuss:
- Symptoms, when they began, and how often they occur
- Medical history and previous medical problems
- Medical histories of family members
- Prescription medicines, over-the-counter medicines, and dietary supplements taken
No single test can diagnose FTD. Typically, healthcare providers will order routine blood tests and perform physical exams to rule out other conditions that cause similar symptoms. If they suspect dementia, they may:
- Evaluate neurological status health including reflexes, muscle strength, muscle tone, sense of touch and sight, coordination, and balance
- Assess neuropsychological status such as memory, problem-solving ability, attention span and counting skills, and language abilities
- Order magnetic resonance imaging or computed tomography scans of the brain
What Does Best Practice Look Like Introducing The Priorities For Care Of The Dying Person
There are five priorities:
- Recognise: The possibility that a person may die within the next few days or hours is recognised and communicated clearly, decisions made and actions taken in accordance with the persons needs and wishes, and these are regularly reviewed and decisions revised accordingly. Always consider reversible causes, for example, infection, dehydration, hypercalcaemia.
- Communicate: Sensitive communication takes place between staff and the dying person, and those identified as important to them.
- Involve: The dying person, and those identified as important to them, are involved in decisions about treatment and care to the extent that the dying person wants.
- Support: The needs of families and others identified as important to the dying person are actively explored, respected and met as far as possible.
- Plan & Do: An individual plan of care, which includes food and drink, symptom control and psychological, social and spiritual support, is agreed, coordinated and delivered with compassion.
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How Does Dementia Actually Kill You
When dementia becomes advanced, a persons brain tissue shrinks and they cannot care for themselves or even communicate, the NIA says. Over time, this can lead to a slew of deadly complications from the disease, Dr. Merrill says.
Many people with dementia have eating problems, like difficulty swallowing. When a person cant swallow properly, food or drink can end up in their lungs, where it can cause pneumonia, Dr. Merrill explains. When bacterial pneumonia goes untreated, it can spread to other parts of the body and potentially lead to , a severe immune system reaction that can be deadly. On top of that, a patient may also become dehydrated or malnourished due to the inability to swallow.
Illnesses that arent detected right away
Other serious illnesses, such as the flu, can also lead to death in dementia patients if they become severe enough. People with advanced dementia arent able to express through language the fact that theyre feeling ill so there may be later detection of an illness, Dr. Merrill says. When an illness is finally detected, it may be more progressed and take over the body to the extent that it wouldnt have if someone didnt have dementia.
Support Care Staff And Colleagues
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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Common Forms Of Dementia
There are many different forms of dementia. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form and may contribute to 6070% of cases. Other major forms include vascular dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies , and a group of diseases that contribute to frontotemporal dementia . The boundaries between different forms of dementia are indistinct and mixed forms often co-exist.
What Are The Early Signs Of Dementia
The onset of dementia is not obvious because the early signs can be vague and quite subtle. The early symptoms usually depend on the kind of dementia that one has and therefore can vary greatly from one person to the next.
Even though the signs can vary, there are some that are quite common and they include:
- Depression, apathy, and withdrawal
- Memory issues, especially when it comes to the most recent events
- Inability to handle the everyday tasks
At times, it is easy to miss to appreciate that the above symptoms could be an indication of something that is not right. Yet there are those who assume that the signs are normal and are associated with aging. It is also possible for one to develop the symptoms in a gradual manner and they may go unnoticed for quite some time.
People may not act even when they can tell that something is definitely wrong. It is important to have a checklist of all signs related to dementia and get the person the needed help when several of such signs are observed. It is important to get a more detailed assessment.
Memory loss and dementia: while it is normal to forget some things and remember later, persons with dementia tend to forget more frequently and they do not remember later.
Tasks: distractions can happen and you may forget to, say, serve one part of the family meal. For a person that has dementia, preparing the meal could be problematic and they may actually forget some of the steps that are involved.
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Eat A Healthy Balanced Diet
A balanced diet has a number of health benefits including reducing your risk of dementia and heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes.
Alzheimers Society says: A healthy diet has a high proportion of oily fish, fruit, vegetables, unrefined cereals and olive oil, and low levels of red meat and sugar.
Try to cut down on saturated fat and limit sugary treats. Keep an eye on your salt intake too, because salt raises your blood pressure and risk of stroke. Read food labels to see whats in them and seek out healthier options.
Caring For Someone With Dementia Towards The End Of Life
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People with dementia may experience problems with thinking, memory, behaviour and mobility. It can be difficult to recognise when someone with dementia is nearing the end of their life. You can support the person by communicating with them and helping them with any symptoms they have. If possible, its a good idea to plan the persons care in advance to help understand what they want from their care.
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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.
Take Things In Stride
Before you go to visit your loved one with dementia, be prepared that they might have a very limited response to your presence. Don’t take it personally or actively seek recognition .
Acceptance is key. Remember that dementia affects a person’s ability to communicate, express emotion, or make connections between current experiences and past memories.
Take the opportunity to express your love without expecting anything back. It will not only make your visit less stressful but provide an overall greater sense of calm to the atmosphere.
If there is disruptive behavior, you are more likely to respond accordinglyneither responding rashly nor taking things personallyif you understand what dementia is and have reasonable expectations walking in.
Loss Of Neuronal Connections And Cell Death
In Alzheimers disease, as neurons are injured and die throughout the brain, connections between networks of neurons may break down, and many brain regions begin to shrink. By the final stages of Alzheimers, this processcalled brain atrophyis widespread, causing significant loss of brain volume.
Learn more about Alzheimer’s disease from MedlinePlus.
Early Warning Signs Of Dementia: Be Aware Of Subtle Signs
Dementia is a very wide term that includes many different diseases associated with cognitive abilities and neurologic function. This type of disease is a life-changer, not only for the patient, but also for his or her family members. It is very difficult to see how dementia takes away what you loved from your relatives, and how memory loss starts affecting the relationships in everyone in your family. This type of disease is based on neurologic dysfunction, and may be caused by several problems, including vascular abnormalities and accumulation of waste products.
The most common form of dementia is Alzheimers disease, and they are all more prevalent as we age. There are some forms of senile dementia with a mild decay in cognitive abilities, but severe cases become in turn a cause of disability and mental health problems.
The most widely studied form of dementia is Alzheimers disease because two-thirds of cases are diagnosed as such. In these patients, amyloid plaques start to form in key regions of the brain, and even though there are asymptomatic individuals, the majority start displaying a series of signs and symptoms as the amyloid plaques become larger.
The most important symptoms are as follows:
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Dementia And Early Death
Across the globe, dementia rates are expected to double every 20 years for the foreseeable future, with an estimated 81 million cases by 2040.
It is clear from earlier studies that people with dementia have decreased survival compared with people without dementia. Even mild mental impairment linked to dementia is associated with an increase in death risk.
But the characteristics associated with mortality among patients with dementia have not been well understood.
There is general agreement that women with dementia tend to live slightly longer than men, but the impact of other characteristics, including education level, age at diagnosis, and marital status are less well known.
And many previous studies have been restricted to patients being treated for the disorder by a specialist or in a hospital setting, Brayne says.
“We wanted to see what is happening with the entire population, not just people who are treated for dementia,” she says.
Slightly over two-thirds of the people in the study who developed dementia were women, and the median age at dementia onset was 84 for women and 83 for men.
The median age at death was 90 for women and 87 for men. And average survival times varied from a high of 10.7 years for the youngest patients to a low of 3.8 years for the oldest .
As in other studies, dementia was associated with shorter survival, but the cognitive level among people with dementia did not appear to play a major role in death.
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Recognising When Someone Is Reaching The End Of Their Life
Read about some of the signs that a person with dementia is nearing their death, and how you can support yourself as a carer, friend or relative.
It is important to know when a person with dementia is nearing the end of their life because it can help in giving them the right care. However it can be difficult to know when this time is.
This uncertainty can have a big impact on how the persons family feel, and may also affect how they feel themselves.
There are symptoms in the later stages of dementia that can suggest the person is reaching the final stage of their illness. These include:
- speech limited to single words or phrases that may not make sense,
- needing help with most everyday activities,
- eating less and having difficulties swallowing,
- bowel and bladder incontinence,
- being unable to walk or stand, problems sitting up and controlling the head, and becoming bed-bound.
It is likely that a person with dementia is nearing the end of their life if they have these symptoms, along with other problems such as frailty, infections that keep coming back, and pressure ulcers .;