Causes Of Death In People With Alzheimer’s Disease
Claudia Chaves, MD, is board-certified in cerebrovascular disease and neurology with a subspecialty certification in vascular neurology. She is an associate professor of neurology at Tufts Medical School and medical director of the Lahey Clinic Multiple Sclerosis Center in Lexington, Massachusetts.
The Alzheimer’s Association notes that Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. It also points out that out of the top 10 causes of death, it’s the only one without an effective treatment or cure.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also highlights Alzheimer’s as a significant cause of death, pointing out that between 1999 and 2014, deaths attributed to Alzheimer’s rose by 55%.
One of the challenges in tracking deaths from Alzheimer’s is that Alzheimer’s disease is not always identified as the cause of death on a death certificate. Sometimes, the conditions that develop from Alzheimer’s are listed instead as primary on the death certificate. In other cases, Alzheimer’s may have never been officially diagnosed. These challenges in tracking Alzheimer’s deaths are demonstrated in one study that found that deaths from Alzheimer’s in people over the age of 75 may be as high as six times the count officially recorded.
Average life expectancy for people living with Alzheimer’s is four to seven years after diagnosis, although some people may live as much as 20 years or more.
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
Social And Economic Impact
Dementia has significant social and economic implications in terms of direct medical and social care costs, and the costs of informal care. In 2015, the total global societal cost of dementia was estimated to be US$ 818 billion, equivalent to 1.1% of global gross domestic product . The total cost as a proportion of GDP varied from 0.2% in low- and middle-income countries to 1.4% in high-income countries.
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What You Can Do For Your Loved One
As an individual with dementia declines, you can help them by providing a loving and supportive presence. Sit with them. Hold their hand. Play music they enjoy.
One of the greatest gifts you can give your loved one is helping to get their affairs in order. Ensure that financial and healthcare powers of attorney are put in place, so you can make decisions when your loved one is no longer able. Look into funeral arrangements before you need them, so you dont need to make important decisions in a time of crisis.
Talk to your loved ones physician about the possibility of palliative care support in the home and hospice care when your loved one is ready.
Use And Costs Of Health Care Services
6.2.1 Use of health care services
People with Alzheimer’s or other dementias have twice as many hospital stays per year as other older people. Moreover, the use of health care services by people with other serious medical conditions is strongly affected by the presence or absence of dementia. In particular, people with coronary artery disease, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease , stroke or cancer who also have Alzheimer’s or other dementias have higher use and costs of health care services than people with these medical conditions but no coexisting dementia.
- * This table does not include payments for all kinds of Medicare services, and as a result the average per-person payments for specific Medicare services do not sum to the total per-person Medicare payments.
- Created from unpublished data from the National 5% Sample Medicare Fee-for-Service Beneficiaries for 2014.
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Avoidable Use Of Health Care And Long
6.5.1 Preventable hospitalizations
Preventable hospitalizations are one common measure of health care quality. Preventable hospitalizations are hospitalizations for conditions that could have been avoided with better access to, or quality of, preventive and primary care. Unplanned hospital readmissions within 30 days are another type of hospitalization that potentially could have been avoided with appropriate post-discharge care. In 2013, 21% of hospitalizations for fee-for-service Medicare enrollees with Alzheimer’s or other dementias were either for unplanned readmissions within 30 days or for an ambulatory care sensitive condition . The total cost to Medicare of these potentially preventable hospitalizations was $4.7 billion . Of people with dementia who had at least one hospitalization, 18% were readmitted within 30 days. Of those who were readmitted within 30 days, 27% were readmitted two or more times. Ten percent of Medicare enrollees had at least one hospitalization for an ambulatory care-sensitive condition, and 14% of total hospitalizations for Medicare enrollees with Alzheimer’s or other dementias were for ambulatory care sensitive conditions.
How Do You Die From Alzheimer’s
Alzheimer’s disease affects around 4.5 million people in the United States. It most often occurs in people over 60 years old, but rarely it may occur in younger people. It starts as a low level of forgetfulness and proceeds to loss of ability to communicate or care for yourself. You may ask the question, How do you die from Alzheimer’s? The answer comes with the stages of Alzheimer’s disease and how it progresses. Certain things occur in the body that can affect your physical functions. This article will explain these things and tips for helping care for a loved one living with the disease.
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Gene Wilder’s Death: How Do People Die From Alzheimer’s
29 August 2016
Legendary comedic actor Gene Wilder has died at age 83 from complications of Alzheimer’s disease, his family announced today. But what exactly does it mean to die from Alzheimer’s?
Although Alzheimer’s disease shortens people’s life spans, it is usually not the direct cause of a person’s death, according to the Alzheimer’s Society, a charity in the United Kingdom for people with dementia. Rather, people die from complications from the illness, such as infections or blood clots.
Alzheimer’s is a progressive brain disease in which abnormal protein deposits build up in the brain, causing brain cells to die. The illness is best known for causing memory loss, but it also has other debilitating effects on the body, and can affect people’s ability to move and eat by themselves. There is no cure for the illness.
Alzheimer’s patients may have difficulty swallowing, and they may inhale food, which can result in aspiration pneumonia, Dr. Marc L. Gordon, chief of neurology at Zucker Hillside Hospital in Queens, New York, who was not involved in Wilder’s care, told Live Science in a 2014 interview. Pneumonia is listed as the cause of death in as many as two-thirds of deaths of patients with dementia, according to the Alzheimer’s Society.
Alzheimer’s patients may also become bedridden, which can increase their risk of fatal blood clots, Gordon said.
Editor’s note: Portions of this article were previously published on LiveScience.
Stage : Very Mild Changes
You still might not notice anything amiss in your loved one’s behavior, but they may be picking up on small differences, things that even a doctor doesn’t catch. This could include forgetting words or misplacing objects.
At this stage, subtle symptoms of Alzheimer’s don’t interfere with their ability to work or live independently.
Keep in mind that these symptoms might not be Alzheimer’s at all, but simply normal changes from aging.
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What Can Be Done To Help
As Alzheimer’s progresses into the later stages, a person may need more care than previously. If you have asked, “How do you die from Alzheimer’s?” and found your answer, the following tips can prevent safety issues and may even help them live longer with Alzheimer’s disease:
You will need to modify the way you communicate with a person with Alzheimer’s. As the cognitive function declines, there may be poor word recall and frustration with not being able to understand others. Some tips to help are:
- Re-orient to person, time, and place
- Never talk down to them
- Use literal instruction
- Point to things you are talking about
- Try to avoid questions that don’t have direct answers
It will become increasingly difficult to keep up with a normal daily schedule. Memory and the ability to think through tasks will fade. A good structure can help alleviate issues with daily activity. Here are some tips:
- Put each day’s schedule on paper
- Try to include daily activities your loved one is used to doing i.e. working in the garden, going for a walk, or visiting the senior center
- Break activities into small segments
Keeping times for eating as simple as possible will prevent nutrition that is needed from becoming overwhelming. If swallowing becomes a problem, see a speech therapist for a swallowing evaluation to prevent aspiration. These tips will help prevent malnutrition:
5. Skin Care and Infection Control
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.
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Unpaid Caregivers Need Help
- Caring for a person with Alzheimer’s or another dementia is often extremely difficult, and many family and other unpaid caregivers experience high levels of emotional stress and depression as a result.14
- Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease has been found to have a negative impact on the health, employment, income, and financial security of many caregivers.15
Alzheimer’s Is On The Rise Throughout The World
- Worldwide, at least 50 million people are believed to be living with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias.4 According to the United Nations, that is more than the population of Columbia.5 If breakthroughs are not discovered, rates could exceed 152 million by 2050.4
- In the time it takes to read this sentence out loud, another person somewhere in the world has been diagnosed with dementia.6 Every 3 seconds, someone in the world develops dementia.4
Use And Costs Of Long
An estimated 70% of older adults with Alzheimer’s or other dementias live in the community, compared with 98% of older adults without Alzheimer’s or other dementias. Of those with dementia who live in the community, 74% live with someone and the remaining 26% live alone. As their disease progresses, people with Alzheimer’s or other dementias generally receive more care from family members and other unpaid caregivers. Many people with dementia also receive paid services at home in adult day centers, assisted living facilities or nursing homes or in more than one of these settings at different times during the often long course of the disease. Medicaid is the only public program that covers the long nursing home stays that most people with dementia require in the late stages of their illnesses.
6.3.1 Use of long-term care services by setting
Long-term care services provided at home and in the community
Transitions between care settings
6.3.2 Costs of long-term care services
Affordability of long-term care services
Long-term care insurance
Common Complications Of Alzheimers Disease That Cause Death
A lack of self-awareness and self-care, prolonged confinement to a bed, feeding failure, inability to receive proper nutrition and dehydration are all factors in the development of other life-threatening health conditions in dementia patients. While brain damage associated with AD is the driving force behind the patients cognitive decline and incapacitation, these secondary illnesses and conditions are ultimately responsible for causing the patients physical decline and death.
Complications of Alzheimers disease are commonly cited as such on death certificates. Because of this, deaths with a primary cause of AD and related dementias are seriously underreported. This is especially true since dementia can go unnoticed as it progresses slowly over the course of many years. Furthermore, a significant number of patients never receive an official neurological diagnosis while alive or after they have died.
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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.
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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Possible Causes Of Death
With some diseases, you end up dying not from the disease itself, but from a complication related to the disease. This is true for dementia. Many people with dementia ultimately die from a complication of the disease. These include:
- Pneumonia: This is one of the biggest reasons why a person with dementia dies. They ultimately develop inflamed, infected lungs, which may be filled with fluid.
- Falls: Falling can be deadly for a senior citizen. Dementia can affect your balance and your ability to walk, so it’s not uncommon to see people with dementia struggling to stand up.
- Choking: Some dementia patients develop a form of pneumonia where food goes down the wrong tube. During the late stages of dementia, they may have trouble swallowing.
- Suicide: During the early stages of dementia, especially in the time immediately following a diagnosis, there may be an increased risk of suicide. Know that depression is an early sign of dementia.
- Bedsores: Prolonged pressure on a certain part of your body can create sores. In late-stage dementia, patients can find it hard to move or get out of bed, leading to bedsores.
- Stroke: This is one of the leading causes of death in the U.S. In some cases, dementia can make the brain bleed, which increases the risk of stroke.
- Heart Attack: Having dementia may also increase the risk of having a heart attack. As with a stroke, the patient’s heart needs to be monitored to prevent a heart attack before it happens.
How Long Until Death?
What Can I Do?
The Seven Stages Of Dementia
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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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.