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How Do You Know When Dementia Is Getting Worse

What Are The Average Life Expectancy Figures For The Most Common Types Of Dementia

What is Dementia?

The average life expectancy figures for the most common types of dementia are as follows:

  • Alzheimers disease around eight to 10 years. Life expectancy is less if the person is diagnosed in their 80s or 90s. A few people with Alzheimers live for longer, sometimes for 15 or even 20 years.
  • Vascular dementia around five years. This is lower than the average for Alzheimers mostly because someone with vascular dementia is more likely to die from a stroke or heart attack than from the dementia itself.
  • Dementia with Lewy bodies about six years. This is slightly less than the average for Alzheimers disease. The physical symptoms of DLB increase a persons risk of falls and infections.
  • Frontotemporal dementia about six to eight years. If a person has FTD mixed with motor neurone disease a movement disorder, their dementia tends to progress much quicker. Life expectancy for people who have both conditions is on average about two to three years after diagnosis.

To find out about the support available to someone at the end of their life, and to their carers, family and friends, see our End of life care information.

You can also call Alzheimers Society on 0333 150 3456 for personalised advice and support on living well with dementia, at any stage.

Dementia Connect support line

How Quickly Does Dementia Progress

The speed at which dementia progresses varies a lot from person to person because of factors such as:

  • the type of dementia for example, Alzheimers disease tends to progress more slowly than the other types
  • a persons age for example, Alzheimers disease generally progresses more slowly in older people than in younger people
  • other long-term health problems dementia tends to progress more quickly if the person is living with other conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes or high blood pressure, particularly if these are not well-managed
  • delirium a medical condition that starts suddenly .

There is no way to be sure how quickly a persons dementia will progress. Some people with dementia will need support very soon after their diagnosis. In contrast, others will stay independent for several years.

What Conditions Can Be Mistaken For Dementia

The term dementia refers to a specific group of symptoms related to a decline in mental ability. Often, people who experience subtle short-term memory changes, are easily confused, or exhibit different behaviors or personality traits are mistakenly thought to have dementia. These symptoms could be the result of a variety of other conditions or disorders, including other neurocognitive disorders such as Parkinsons disease, brain growths or tumors, mild cognitive impairment , and mood disorders, like depression.

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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.

Be Aware Of Their Eating And Drinking

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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.

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What Causes Vascular Dementia

Vascular dementia is caused by a lack of blood flow to a part of the brain. Blood flow may be decreased or interrupted by:

  • Blood clots
  • Bleeding because of a ruptured blood vessel
  • Damage to a blood vessel from atherosclerosis, infection, high blood pressure, or other causes, such as an autoimmune disorder

CADASIL is a genetic disorder that generally leads to dementia of the vascular type. One parent with the gene for CADASIL passes it on to a child, which makes it an autosomal-dominant inheritance disorder. It affects the blood vessels in the white matter of the brain. Symptoms, such as migraine headaches, seizures, and severe depression, generally start when a person is in his or her mid-30s but, symptoms may not appear until later in life.

Using The Gds To Measure Dementia Progression

As the disease progresses, different signs and symptoms will become increasingly obvious. While there are several scales to measure the progression of dementia, the most common scale is the Global Deterioration Scale for Assessment of Primary Degenerative Dementia . The scale is also known as the Reisberg Scale. According to the GDS, there are seven different stages of Alzheimers disease correlating with four distinct categories: no Alzheimers, mild Alzheimers , moderate Alzheimers , and severe Alzheimers .

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How Does Dementia Cause Death

Studies suggest that, on average, someone will live around ten years following a dementia diagnosis. However, this can vary significantly between individuals, some people living for more than twenty years, so its important to try not to focus on the figures and to make the very most of the time left.

What Can I Expect If I Have Dementia

What is dementia?

Getting a diagnosis of dementia is certainly difficult to hear. Several types of dementia arent reversible. Others are a side effect of other serious diseases. Some dementia-like symptoms are due to conditions that can be treated and reversed.

Your healthcare team, which will probably include a neurologist and/or a geriatric-psychiatrist or a geriatrician, will order the needed tests to make the correct diagnosis. The medications available today focus on slowing the decline.

The goal is to maintain your or your loved ones quality of life. Some people with Alzheimers dementia can live up to two decades, but each person has their own unique course. Researchers continue learning about the mechanisms that cause dementia and testing different methods to slow, and someday, hopefully, cure this disease.

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How Can Healthcare Professionals Help At This Stage

Healthcare professionals can explain these changes so you understand what is happening.

Healthcare professionals can also take steps to reduce the persons pain or distress, often using medication.

If the person cant swallow, then medication can be provided through patches on the skin, small injections or syringe pumps that provide a steady flow of medication through a small needle under the persons skin. Speak to a GP or another health professional about this.

Can Dementia Suddenly Get Worse

The progression of dementia depends on the underlying disease. Some diseases have a rapid progression. Others progress more slowly. Any sudden change with either slow or rapid progression should be evaluated for another cause. In most cases, changes with dementia may seem like they came out of the blue when they actually may have been slowly developing in the background. The best way to prepare for changes and manage expectations is through information. Your doctor and medical team will be a valuable resource. There are a variety of educational resources that are also available through the Alzheimer’s Association.

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What Are The Symptoms Of Dementia

Each person is unique and will experience dementia in their own way. The different types of dementia tend to affect people differently, especially in the early stages.

A person with dementia will often have cognitive symptoms . They will often have problems with some of the following:

  • Day-to-day memory difficulty recalling events that happened recently.
  • Repetition repeating the same question or conversation frequently in a short space of time.
  • Concentrating, planning or organising difficulties making decisions, solving problems or carrying out a sequence of tasks .
  • Language difficulties following a conversation or finding the right word for something.
  • Visuospatial skills problems judging distances and seeing objects in three dimensions.
  • Orientation losing track of the day or date, or becoming confused about where they are.

Some people have other symptoms including movement problems, hallucinations or behaviour changes.

What’s The Life Expectancy Of A Person With Dementia

Important differences between dementia and Alzheimer

Theres no easy way to answer this question. Dementia is an umbrella term that covers the many different types of underlying neurodegenerative diseases.

Each type of neurodegenerative disease has its own unique pattern and development in each person. Also, each person has a unique health profile. Some people may be relatively healthy and others may have several co-existing health issues. All of these factors play a role in the pace of decline in a person with dementia.

To answer more broadly, Alzheimers is the most common type of dementia. The average lifespan after the earliest symptoms is eight years. However, some people have lived as long as 20 years after an Alzheimers disease diagnosis.

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What To Do If A Loved One Is Suspicious Of Having Dementia

  • Discuss with loved one. Talk about seeing a medical provider about the observed changes soon. Talk about the issue of driving and always carrying an ID.
  • Medical assessment. Be with a provider that you are comfortable with. Ask about the Medicare Annual Wellness exam.
  • Family Meeting. Start planning, and gather documents like the Health Care Directive, Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care, Estate Plan.

Difficulty Finding The Right Words

Another early symptom of dementia is difficulty with communicating thoughts. A person with dementia may have a hard time explaining something or finding the right words to express themselves. They may also stop in the middle of a sentence and not know how to continue.

Having a conversation with a person who has dementia can be challenging, and it may take longer than usual for them to express their thoughts or feelings.

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Does The Type Of Dementia Affect Life Expectancy

The type of dementia a person has can also affect how long they live with dementia. These figures for the number of years a person may live after a diagnosis are just averages and some people live longer than this.

This information may be upsetting to read and think about but it is very important to remember that, with the right support, people with dementia can live well at all stages.

What Is The Life Expectancy For Later Stage Dementia

What is dementia? Alzheimer’s Research UK

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 .

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What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Dementia

Because dementia is a general term, its symptoms can vary widely from person to person. People with dementia have problems with:

  • Memory
  • Reasoning, judgment, and problem solving
  • Visual perception beyond typical age-related changes in vision

Signs that may point to dementia include:

  • Getting lost in a familiar neighborhood
  • Using unusual words to refer to familiar objects
  • Forgetting the name of a close family member or friend
  • Forgetting old memories
  • Not being able to complete tasks independently

How Many Stages Of Dementia Are There

There are several different types of Dementia, with Alzheimers disease being the most common. Though when it comes to the different stages of Dementia, we can typically categorise the trajectory of the disease as mild, moderate or severe.

Although this three stage model is useful for providing an overview of early, middle and final stages of Dementia, most people prefer a seven stage model that breaks cognitive decline down into seven specific categories. The progression of Dementia will be different for everyone, but knowing where a loved one falls on this scale can help to identify signs and symptoms, whilst also determining the most appropriate care needs. So, what are the 7 stages of Dementia?

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A Person With Dementia Doesnt Always Fit Into One Stage

Dementia affects each person in a unique way and changes different parts of the brain at different points in the disease progression.

Plus, different types of dementia tend to have different symptoms.

For example, someone with frontotemporal dementia may first show extreme behavior and personality changes. But someone with Alzheimers disease would first experience short-term memory loss and struggle with everyday tasks.

Researchers and doctors still dont know enough about how these diseases work to predict exactly what will happen.

Another common occurrence is for someone in the middle stages of dementia to suddenly have a clear moment, hour, or day and seem like theyre back to their pre-dementia abilities. They could be sharp for a little while and later, go back to having obvious cognitive impairment.

When this happens, some families may feel like their older adult is faking their symptoms or just isnt trying hard enough.

Its important to know that this isnt true, its truly the dementia thats causing their declining abilities as well as those strange moments of clarity theyre truly not doing it on purpose.

Scales For Rating Dementia

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Rather than simply using early stage,middle-stage, and late-stage dementia as descriptors, there are scales that provide a more comprehensive description. These scales help better understand the different stages of Alzheimers disease based on how well a person thinks and functions . These scales are the Global Deterioration Scale for Assessment of Primary Degenerative Dementia, the Functional Assessment Staging Test, and the Clinical Dementia Rating.

Did You Know?

Global Deterioration Scale / Reisberg Scale

The most commonly used scale is often referred to simply as GDS, or by its more formal name, the Reisberg Scale . The GDS divides into seven stages based on the amount of cognitive decline. This test is most relevant for people who have Alzheimers disease because some other types of dementia do not always include memory loss.

Someone in stages 1-3 does not typically exhibit enough symptoms for a dementia diagnosis. By the time a diagnosis has been made, a dementia patient is typically in stage 4 or beyond. Stage 4 is considered early dementia, stages 5 and 6 are considered middle dementia, and stage 7 is considered late dementia.

Global Deterioration Scale / Reisberg Scale
Diagnosis

Clinical Dementia Rating

Clinical Dementia Rating Scale
Stage
Average duration is 1 year to 2.5 years.

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Why Do Dementia Patients Stop Talking

There are many signs that can tell you death is near for a dementia payment. Even though you may be prepared for the end, it is never easy. The ten signs that death is near include:

  • Sleeping. The patient may stop responding or may be more sleepy than usual
  • Loss of interest in fluids and food
  • Coolness: the patients legs, feet, arms, hands, ears, and nose may feel cool to touch because of the decrease in circulation
  • Change in the color of the skin because of the low circulation of blood usually called mottling
  • Rattling sounds within the throat and lungs
  • Bowel and bladder changes
  • Changing vital signs
  • 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.

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