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.
Has Anyone Survived Alzheimers
The median survival times ranged from 8.3 years for persons diagnosed as having AD at age 65 years to 3.4 years for persons diagnosed as having AD at age 90 years. There were no significant differences between men and women in survival after having a diagnosis of AD.
Signs And Symptoms Of Alzheimer’s Disease
Memory problems are typically one of the first signs of cognitive impairment related to Alzheimers. Some people with memory problems have a condition called mild cognitive impairment . With MCI, people have more memory problems than normal for their age, but their symptoms do not interfere with their everyday lives. Movement difficulties and problems with the sense of smell have also been linked to MCI. Older people with MCI are at greater risk for developing Alzheimers, but not all of them do so. Some may even revert to normal cognition.
The first symptoms of Alzheimers vary from person to person. For many, decline in nonmemory aspects of cognition, such as word-finding, vision/spatial issues, and impaired reasoning or judgment may signal the very early stages of the disease. Researchers are studying biomarkers to detect early changes in the brains of people with MCI and in cognitively normal people who may be at greater risk for Alzheimers. More research is needed before these techniques can be used broadly and routinely to diagnose Alzheimers in a health care providers office.
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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.
The Financial Implications Of Early
People with early-onset Alzheimers disease may be facing a daunting financial future, particularly if their job is their main source of income.
Those who are still working may be eligible for disability benefits or may be able to use benefits offered under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, which allows up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave each year for family and medical reasons with continuation of group health insurance coverage.
People who need to leave their jobs may be able to retain employer-sponsored healthcare coverage for as long as 36 months under the federal law COBRA.
The Health Insurance Marketplace in each state, created by the Affordable Care Act , is another option for healthcare coverage. ACA health plans cannot refuse coverage to people with preexisting conditions, meaning no one can be denied insurance because of an Alzheimers diagnosis.
The Social Security Administration has added early-onset Alzheimers disease to its list of conditions under the Compassionate Allowances initiative.
This means people younger than 65 who qualify have expedited access to Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income.
Talking with a financial planner who is familiar with elder care or long-term-care planning may be helpful in understanding the choices and taking a proactive approach.
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Young Onset Vs Early Stage
It’s important to know that term “young onset dementia” does not mean the early stage of dementia. While most people diagnosed with young onset dementia are likely experiencing mild symptoms that indicate they are in the early stage, “young onset” and “early stage” have different meanings. A 57-year-old living with young onset dementia could already be in the late stage, while a 80-year-old just diagnosed with dementia might be in the early stage.
It’s also important to note that young onset dementia encompasses all types of dementia. If a person is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease â the most common type of dementia âunder the age of 65, then that person can be said to have young onset Alzheimer’s disease. Likewise, if a person is diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia under 65, then that person has young onset frontotemporal dementia.
However, each person living with young onset dementia has their own preferred term to describe their dementia â ask them what they prefer!
How Is Alzheimers Disease Treated
Alzheimers is complex, and it is therefore unlikely that any one drug or other intervention will successfully treat it in all people living with the disease.
Scientists are exploring many avenues to delay or prevent the disease as well as to treat its symptoms. In ongoing clinical trials, scientists are developing and testing several possible interventions. Under study are drug therapies aimed at a variety of disease interventions, as well as nondrug approaches such as physical activity, diet, cognitive training, and combinations of these. Just as we have many treatments for heart disease and cancer, we will likely need many options for treating Alzheimers. Precision medicine getting the right treatment to the right person at the right time will likely play a major role.
Current approaches to treating Alzheimers focus on helping people maintain mental function, treating the underlying disease process, and managing behavioral symptoms.
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How Does Alzheimer’s Disease Progress
The rate of progression of the disease varies from person to person.
However, the disease does lead eventually to complete dependence and finally death, usually from another illness such as pneumonia. A person may live from three to twenty years with Alzheimer’s disease, with the average being seven to ten years.
How Is Alzheimer’s Disease Diagnosed
There is currently no single test to identify Alzheimer’s disease. The diagnosis is made only after careful clinical consultation.
The clinical diagnosis might include:
- A detailed medical history
- Lumbar puncture for cerebral spinal fluid tests
- Medical imaging
These tests will help to eliminate other conditions with similar symptoms such as nutritional deficiencies or depression. After eliminating other causes, a clinical diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease can be made with about 80% to 90% accuracy if the symptoms and signs are appropriate. The diagnosis can only be confirmed after death by examination of the brain tissue.
It is important to have an early and accurate diagnosis to determine whether a treatable condition other than Alzheimer’s disease, is causing the symptoms. If Alzheimer’s disease is diagnosed, medical treatment and other assistance can be discussed.
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Symptoms Of Alzheimer’s Disease
In the early stages the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease can be very subtle. However, it often begins with lapses in memory and difficulty in finding the right words for everyday objects.
Other symptoms may include:
- Persistent and frequent memory difficulties, especially of recent events
- Vagueness in everyday conversation
- Apparent loss of enthusiasm for previously enjoyed activities
- Taking longer to do routine tasks
- Forgetting well-known people or places
- Inability to process questions and instructions
- Deterioration of social skills
- Emotional unpredictability
Symptoms vary and the disease progresses at a different pace according to the individual and the areas of the brain affected. A person’s abilities may fluctuate from day to day, or even within the one day, becoming worse in times of stress, fatigue or ill-health.
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.
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The Start Of The Dying Process
As someones condition worsens and they get to within a few days or hours of dying, further changes are common. The person will often:
- deteriorate more quickly than before
- lose consciousness
- develop an irregular breathing pattern
- have cold hands and feet.
These changes are part of the dying process. Healthcare professionals can explain these changes so you understand what is happening. The person is often unaware of what is happening, and they should not be in pain or distress.
Medication can be used to treat the persons symptoms. If the person cant swallow, there are other ways of providing this, such as medication patches on the skin, small injections or syringe drivers . Speak to a GP or another health professional about this.
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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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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.
Pat Summitt’s Death: What We Know About Early
Pat Summitt, the legendary University of Tennessee women’s basketball coach who died today at the age of 64, was diagnosed with early-onset dementia five years before her death.
In a statement, her son Tyler said she died peacefully, after putting up a fierce fight against the disease.
“Since 2011, my mother has battled her toughest opponent, early onset dementia, ‘Alzheimer’s Type,’ and she did so with bravely fierce determination just as she did with every opponent she ever faced,” he said. “Even though it’s incredibly difficult to come to terms that she is no longer with us, we can all find peace in knowing she no longer carries the heavy burden of this disease.”
Summit was just 59 years old when she was first diagnosed with early onset dementia, Alzheimer’s type, in 2011. Early-onset, also known as younger-onset, refers to cases diagnosed in people younger than 65.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, up to 5 percent of the more than 5 million Americans with Alzheimer’s disease have early-onset.
What are the symptoms?
For many people with early-onset Alzheimer’s, symptoms are similar to those of other forms of the disease, which becomes more common in older age.
As the disease progresses, symptoms may also include severe mood swings and behavioral changes suspicions about friends, family members and caregivers difficulty speaking and severe memory loss.
Who’s at risk for early-onset Alzheimer’s?
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Medications To Maintain Mental Function In Alzheimer’s Disease
Several medications are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat symptoms of Alzheimers. Donepezil, rivastigmine, and galantamine are used to treat the symptoms of mild to moderate Alzheimers. Donepezil, memantine, the rivastigmine patch, and a combination medication of memantine and donepezil are used to treat moderate to severe Alzheimers symptoms. All of these drugs work by regulating neurotransmitters, the chemicals that transmit messages between neurons. They may help reduce symptoms and help with certain behavioral problems. However, these drugs dont change the underlying disease process. They are effective for some but not all people and may help only for a limited time.
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.
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Trends In Dementia Caregiving
There is some indication that families are now better at managing the care they provide to relatives with dementia than in the past. From 1999 to 2015, dementia caregivers were significantly less likely to report physical difficulties and financial difficulties related to care provision. In addition, use of respite care by dementia caregivers increased substantially . However, as noted earlier, more work is needed to ensure that interventions for dementia caregivers are available and accessible to those who need them. A 2016 study of the Older Americans Act’s National Family Caregiver Support Program found that over half of Area Agencies on Aging did not offer evidence-based family caregiver interventions.
Getting An Accurate Diagnosis
â with young onset is that dementia is not something that they think about initially. If youâre a woman, the first thing they think about is menopause and depression and anxiety and panic and sleep disorders and all those kinds of things.â â Faye, from Windsor Junction, Nova Scotia. Faye lives with young onset Alzheimer’s disease.
Diagnosing dementia can be a long and complicated process. For younger people, itâs even more complicated and frustrating. Healthcare providers are often reluctant to diagnose dementia in someone so young, and itâs common for a person who has young onset dementia to be misdiagnosed with another condition, such as depression.
As a a result, the person living with young onset dementia may not get the appropriate knowledge, treatment and support to fight the disease.
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Dementia With Lewy Bodies
Dementia with Lewy bodies is caused by the build-up of tiny protein deposits in the brain. DLB is less common in younger people with dementia than in older people. Lewy bodies also cause Parkinsons disease and about one-third of people with Parkinsons eventually develop dementia.Symptoms of dementia with Lewy bodies can include hallucinations and varying levels of alertness. People can also develop the features of Parkinsons disease .
What is dementia with Lewy bodies?
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Support For Families And Alzheimer’s Disease Caregivers
Caring for a person with Alzheimers can have significant physical, emotional, and financial costs. The demands of day-to-day care, changes in family roles, and decisions about placement in a care facility can be difficult. NIA supports efforts to evaluate programs, strategies, approaches, and other research to improve the quality of care and life for those living with dementia and their caregivers.
Becoming well-informed about the disease is one important long-term strategy. Programs that teach families about the various stages of Alzheimers and about ways to deal with difficult behaviors and other caregiving challenges can help.
Good coping skills, a strong support network, and respite care are other things that may help caregivers handle the stress of caring for a loved one with Alzheimers. For example, staying physically active provides physical and emotional benefits.
Some caregivers have found that joining a support group is a critical lifeline. These support groups enable caregivers to find respite, express concerns, share experiences, get tips, and receive emotional comfort. Many organizations sponsor in-person and online support groups, including groups for people with early-stage Alzheimers and their families.
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How Does Alzheimers Kill
Alzheimer’s disease is a degenerative disease of the brain, resulting in memory loss, cognitive decline, and personality changes. Alzheimers disease is the most common cause of dementia . People with Alzheimer’s disease first develop memory loss. As the disease progresses, memory loss worsens and problems with thinking, decision making, reasoning, language, or perception develop.
In the late stages of Alzheimer’s, individuals lose their ability to communicate or respond to the environment and require constant care. The brain damage leads to the failure of the bodys organs and functions, including the lungs, heart, and digestion, which can eventually kill the individual. Alzheimer’s is a disease with no cure, but there are ways to stop or slow its progression with medications and other therapies. These can treat symptoms and improve the quality of life.
Alzheimers disease can be either of the following:
- Sporadic Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of Alzheimer’s and occurs after 65 years of age. The affected person does not have any history of the disease in their family members.
- Familial Alzheimers disease is a rare genetic condition. A person with inherited mutated genes may develop Alzheimer’s disease when they are of age 40-50 years .