Signs Of Dying In The Elderly With Dementia
Dementia is a general term for a chronic or persistent decline in mental processes including memory loss, impaired reasoning, and personality changes. Alzheimers disease is the most common form of dementia, accounting for 60-80% of all cases of dementia. It is also the 6th leading cause of death in the United States, and over 5 million Americans are currently living with Alzheimers disease.
Alzheimers disease and most progressive dementias do not have a cure. While the disease inevitably worsens over time, that timeline can vary greatly from one patient to the next.
Caring for a loved one can be challenging and stressful, as the individuals personality changes and cognitive function declines. They may even stop recognizing their nearest and dearest friends and relatives. As dementia progresses, the individual will require more and more care. As a family caregiver, its important to be able to recognize the signs of dying in elderly with dementia. Hospice can help by offering care wherever the individual resides, providing physical, emotional and spiritual care to the patient and support their family.
Stage : Moderately Severe Dementia
When the patient begins to forget the names of their children, spouse, or primary caregivers, they are most likely entering stage 6 of dementia and will need full time care. In the sixth stage, patients are generally unaware of their surroundings, cannot recall recent events, and have skewed memories of their personal past. Caregivers and loved ones should watch for:
- Delusional behavior
Stage : Moderate Dementia
When a person has moderate dementia due to Alzheimers disease, they become increasingly confused and forgetful. They may need help with daily tasks and with looking after themselves. This is the longest stage and often lasts around 24 years.
Symptoms of moderate dementia due to Alzheimers disease include:
- losing track of the location and forgetting the way, even in familiar places
- wandering in search of surroundings that feel more familiar
- failing to recall the day of the week or the season
- confusing family members and close friends or mistaking strangers for family
- forgetting personal information, such as their address
- repeating favorite memories or making up stories to fill memory gaps
- needing help deciding what to wear for the weather or season
- needing assistance with bathing and grooming
- occasionally losing control of the bladder or bowel
- becoming unduly suspicious of friends and family
- seeing or hearing things that are not there
- becoming restless or agitated
- having physical outbursts, which may be aggressive
As Alzheimers progresses, a person may start to feel more restless toward evening and have difficulty sleeping. This is sometimes called sundowners syndrome.
During this stage, physical and mental functioning continue to decline.
If a person has severe dementia during the later stages of Alzheimers disease, they might:
Don’t Miss: Ribbon Color For Dementia
Support For Family And Friends
Currently, many people living with Alzheimers disease are cared for at home by family members. Caregiving can have positive aspects for the caregiver as well as the person being cared for. It may bring personal fulfillment to the caregiver, such as satisfaction from helping a family member or friend, and lead to the development of new skills and improved family relationships.
Although most people willingly provide care to their loved ones and friends, caring for a person with Alzheimers disease at home can be a difficult task and may become overwhelming at times. Each day brings new challenges as the caregiver copes with changing levels of ability and new patterns of behavior. As the disease gets worse, people living with Alzheimers disease often need more intensive care.
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 know what will happen in the future so that you can be prepared emotionally and logistically.
This article discusses how dementia progresses and what to expect during late-stage dementia.
Recommended Reading: Alzheimer’s Neurotransmitters Affected
What Is The Average Life Expectancy
Life expectancy varies for each person with AD. The average life expectancy after diagnosis is eight to 10 years. In some cases, however, it can be as short as three years or as long as 20 years.
AD can go undiagnosed for several years, too. In fact, the average length of time between when symptoms begin and when an AD diagnosis is made is 2.8 years.
Other Complications Of Dementia
Dementia and pneumonia often go hand in hand. As the ability to properly swallow declines, liquids can tragically end up down the wrong pipe, often leading to infection in the lungs.
Other conditions that may lead to death include heart failure, blood clots, and dehydration. Additionally, individuals with pre-existing health conditions can be at higher risk of death with dementia.
Don’t Miss: Color For Alzheimers
Can Alzheimer’s Disease Be Prevented
As the exact cause of Alzheimer’s disease is not clear, there’s no known way to prevent the condition.
But there are things you can do that may reduce your risk or delay the onset of dementia, such as:
- staying physically fit and mentally active
These measures have other health benefits, such as lowering your risk of cardiovascular disease and improving your overall mental health.
Read more about preventing Alzheimer’s disease.
Stage : Mild Dementia
The mild dementia stage is the point at which doctors typically diagnose Alzheimers disease. If people use a three-stage description of Alzheimers disease, this will be the early stage.
Problems with memory and thinking may become more noticeable to friends and family and also begin to affect daily life.
Symptoms of mild dementia due to Alzheimers disease include:
- having difficulty remembering newly learned information
- asking the same question repeatedly
- having trouble solving problems and completing tasks
- exhibiting reduced motivation to complete tasks
- experiencing a lapse in judgment
- becoming withdrawn or uncharacteristically irritable or angry
- having difficulty finding the correct words to describe an object or idea
- getting lost or misplacing items
Also Check: Colors For Alzheimer’s Awareness
How Does Alzheimer’s Disease Affect The Brain
Scientists continue to unravel the complex brain changes involved in Alzheimers disease. Changes in the brain may begin a decade or more before symptoms appear. During this very early stage of Alzheimers, toxic changes are taking place in the brain, including abnormal buildups of proteins that form amyloid plaques and tau tangles. Previously healthy neurons stop functioning, lose connections with other neurons, and die. Many other complex brain changes are thought to play a role in Alzheimers as well.
The damage initially appears to take place in the hippocampus and the entorhinal cortex, which are parts of the brain that are essential in forming memories. As more neurons die, additional parts of the brain are affected and begin to shrink. By the final stage of Alzheimers, damage is widespread and brain tissue has shrunk significantly.
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.
Read Also: Puzzles For People With Dementia
When Do Dementia Patients Stop Eating
When a patient stops or refuses to eat, things can be very depressing for the caregiver. Drinking and eating are complex and have to do with a control center that is within the brain, which controls the muscles in the throat and neck area.
Dementia affects this part of the brain as it progresses and things like choking, coughing, grimacing as one swallows, clearing the throat, movements that are exaggerated, especially of the tongue and mouth, refusing to swallow, and spitting the food can be seen. This usually happens in the later stages of the disease.
Who Has Alzheimers Disease
- In 2020, as many as 5.8 million Americans were living with Alzheimers disease.1
- Younger people may get Alzheimers disease, but it is less common.
- The number of people living with the disease doubles every 5 years beyond age 65.
- This number is projected to nearly triple to 14 million people by 2060.1
- Symptoms of the disease can first appear after age 60, and the risk increases with age.
Recommended Reading: What Is The Difference Between Dementia And Senility
What Is Alzheimers Disease
Alzheimers is a disease marked by a progressive decline in memory, judgment, language skills, and other mental abilities. In its later stages, Alzheimers may affect essential functions such as swallowing or breathing. This form of dementia usually affects older people, though some adults under 65 may be diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimers.
The cause of Alzheimers isnt known, but genetics and changes in the brain play important roles. Unfortunately, theres still no cure.
To understand what usually causes death in Alzheimers patients, you must consider the main issues that arise from this disease.
How Hospice Can Help With End
In addition to helping you in recognizing the signs of dying in the elderly with dementia, bringing in hospice care will help with the physical and emotional demands of caregiving. Nurses will be able to adjust medication and care plans as the individuals needs change. Aides can help with bathing, grooming, and other personal care. Social workers can help organize resources for the patient and family. Chaplains and bereavement specials can help the family with any emotional or spiritual needs. Additionally, family members can contact hospice at any time, and do not need to wait until it is recommended by the patient’s physician.
To learn more about the criteria for hospice eligibility or to schedule a consultation, please contact Crossroads using the blue Help Center bar on this page for more information on how we can help provide support to individuals with dementia and their families.
Recommended Reading: Does Terry Semel Have Alzheimer’s
How Does A Person Die From Dementia
Can dementia kill? Alzheimer’s disease doesnt just make you forgetful. Its a serious, progressive condition which is, eventually, terminal. Alzheimers and other forms of dementia have now overtaken heart disease to become the leading cause of death in England and Wales.
The brain is responsible for more than thought, memory and understanding. It controls our bodily systems including breathing, circulation and digestion. Alzheimers kills cells in the brain. This damage initially leads to problems remembering things and communicating effectively. However, with time the brain damage affects the whole body, leading to death. This can be from a number of causes:
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:
Read Also: Does Ben Carson Have Dementia
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 Alzheimer’s Disease Is Treated
There’s currently no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, but medicines are available that can help relieve some of the symptoms.
Various other types of support are also available to help people with Alzheimer’s live as independently as possible, such as making changes to your home environment so it’s easier to move around and remember daily tasks.
Psychological treatments such as cognitive stimulation therapy may also be offered to help support your memory, problem solving skills and language ability.
Read more about treating Alzheimer’s disease.
You May Like: Purple Ribbon Alzheimer’s
Medications To Treat The Underlying Alzheimer’s Disease Process
Aducanumab is the first disease-modifying therapy approved by the FDA to treat Alzheimers disease. The medication helps to reduce amyloid deposits in the brain and may help slow the progression of Alzheimers, although it has not yet been shown to affect clinical outcomes such as progression of cognitive decline or dementia. A doctor or specialist will likely perform tests, such as a PET scan or analysis of cerebrospinal fluid, to look for evidence of amyloid plaques and help decide if the treatment is right for the patient.
Aducanumab was approved through the FDAs Accelerated Approval Program. This process requires an additional study after approval to confirm the anticipated clinical benefit. If the follow-up trial fails to verify clinical benefit, the FDA may withdraw approval of the drug. Results of the phase 4 clinical trial for aducanumab are expected to be available by early 2030.
Several other disease-modifying medications are being tested in people with mild cognitive impairment or early Alzheimers as potential treatments.
What Does Age Have To Do With It
The age you are diagnosed with AD may have the greatest impact on your life expectancy. The earlier you are diagnosed, the longer you may live. Researchers at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health have discovered that the average survival time for people diagnosed at age 65 is 8.3 years. The average life expectancy for people diagnosed at age 90 is 3.4 years.
Recommended Reading: Purple Ribbon Alzheimers
The Basics Of Alzheimers Disease
Scientists are conducting studies to learn more about plaques, tangles, and other biological features of Alzheimers disease. Advances in brain imaging techniques allow researchers to see the development and spread of abnormal amyloid and tau proteins in the living brain, as well as changes in brain structure and function. Scientists are also exploring the very earliest steps in the disease process by studying changes in the brain and body fluids that can be detected years before Alzheimers symptoms appear. Findings from these studies will help in understanding the causes of Alzheimers and make diagnosis easier.
One of the great mysteries of Alzheimers disease is why it largely affects older adults. Research on normal brain aging is exploring this question. For example, scientists are learning how age-related changes in the brain may harm neurons and affect other types of brain cells to contribute to Alzheimers damage. These age-related changes include atrophy of certain parts of the brain, inflammation, blood vessel damage, production of unstable molecules called free radicals, and mitochondrial dysfunction .
Managing Alzheimer’s Disease Behavior
Common behavioral symptoms of Alzheimers include sleeplessness, wandering, agitation, anxiety, and aggression. Scientists are learning why these symptoms occur and are studying new treatments drug and nondrug to manage them. Research has shown that treating behavioral symptoms can make people with Alzheimers more comfortable and makes things easier for caregivers.
Don’t Miss: Can An Mri Detect Dementia Or Alzheimer’s