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How Does Dementia Lead To Death

How Does Dementia Cause Death

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We mentioned above that as dementia progresses, it can lead to an individual losing the ability to walk and eat. These two factors can cause a person with dementia to become frail and malnourished.

Frailty can lead to an increased risk of injury or falling as individuals move around independently. Malnutrition can weaken an individuals immune system and increase the risk of sickness. Contracting an acute illness like pneumonia is often fatal for someone with a weakened immune system.

Often, people with dementia pass away because their body is weak and cant fight off infection any longer. Pre-existing conditions like heart disease, high blood pressure, or diabetes can also lead to an increased death rate in individuals with dementia.

So, can you die from Alzheimers or other dementia-related diseases? Yes, but as we stated earlier, dementia often contributes to death but isnt usually the main factor.

Managing frailty and malnutrition early on is a helpful way to increase the life expectancy and overall quality of life for a loved one with dementia.

However, it can be challenging to provide full-time care to a parent or family member with dementia. Here are some resources available to you as you navigate caring for a loved one with dementia.

Recognizing Approaching End Of Life

People with advanced dementia suffer from a number of distressing symptoms . In their last 12 months, nursing homes residents with dementia suffer most common from restrictions in mobility, pain, and sleeping disorder. Further frequent symptoms at the end-of-life could be identified problems with eating, trouble with breathing, apathy and anxiety. Contrary to this sleep disturbances, challenging behavior, agitation and depressive episodes occurred less frequently . Increases in distressing symptoms such as febrile infections and problems with eating and swallowing may be indicators for death in the next six months . Clinical complications such as respiratory infections are associated with highest symptom burden . Other results showed increased mortality coinciding with low body weight or low Body Mass Index . Prognostic assessment tools all include at least one criterion related to nutritional status, such as reduced appetite, inadequate food intake, malnutrition, or weight loss .

Physicians associated unexpected death with suffering and poor quality of life . Expecting death within the coming months showed positive effects on quality of end-of-life care. Prognosis estimation under six months was associated with fewer burdensome interventions in people with dementia . Among people with dementia explicitly expected to die a lower symptom burden was noticed and all of them received morphine .

Signs And Stages Of Dementia

Early Signs

In the early stages of dementia, subtle signs begin to present themselves. The person might lose their keys more often, forget directions when driving, or show mood swings. It can often be overlooked and unnoticed as simple ditziness or having an off day.

It can be hard to diagnose dementia in the earlier stages. According to the Global Deterioration Scale , dementia experts express the need for updated testing as its much better for the individual, caregivers, and family members to catch dementia earlier on. It can be confusing to pinpoint the onset of dementia as it often occurs with co-existing conditions, such as a stroke or physical disease.

Top traits of the early phase of dementia include:

  • Confusion when trying to arrange difficult thoughts or tasks

Mid -Stage

As dementia progresses, the middle stage shows more severe signs of the beginning stage. The person will likely begin forgetting peoples names, faces, and their relationship to them. This relationship memory gap can come and go at different times, depending on the day.

They may also get easily lost in places like their local grocery store, nursing home, or even their own house. Communication can become an issue as they struggle to find the right words to express what they want to say. Major behavioral changes can occur, such as an introvert becoming suddenly extroverted and risk-seeking, or a nurturing friend becoming hostile toward peers.

Characteristics of mid-stage dementia:

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How Do You Know When A Dementia Patient Is Dying

  • How Do You Know When a Dementia Patient Is Dying? Center
  • Since a patient with dementia may have trouble communicating, its important to monitor for signs of pain or discomfort. End-stage dementia symptoms may indicate that the patient is dying or close to death:

    • Problems with everyday functions, including bathing, dressing, eating, and going to the bathroom
    • Inability to walk or sit up in bed without assistance
    • Inability to speak and show facial expressions
    • Dehydration and malnutrition due to trouble swallowing, eating, and drinking
    • Increased risk of medical conditions such as urinary tract infections, aspiration pneumonia, skin breakdown, pressure ulcers , or blood clots
    • Agitation, restlessness, moaning, and changes in breathing

    Consider Palliative Care And Hospice As Part Of The Process

    Dementia Action Week

    Palliative care addresses the overall well-being of people with chronic illnesses like progressive brain disorders and dementia. Palliative care and end-of-life hospice care are not the same thing.

    • Palliative care. Palliative care providers can help you work through important decisions about which treatments and procedures will bring the biggest benefits. They can also provide medications to relieve pain, anxiety, emotional distress, and other symptoms that arise in late stage dementia. They may be able to help you access the services of social workers, nutritionists, and therapists to meet a wide range of needs.
    • Hospice care. Hospice services can ease the transition to end-of-life care, supplying equipment and treatments that bring greater comfort and make it easier to care for a person in this stage.

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    Special Prerequisites Of Palliative Care In Advanced Dementia

    Originally, palliative care emerged in the UK for cancer patients in response to insufficient care for the terminally ill. Eventually conditions other than cancer were acknowledged as being in need of palliative care. Independent of specific diagnosis palliative care should be provided for people with life-threatening disease and their families âthrough the prevention and relief of suffering by means of early identification and impeccable assessment and treatment of pain and other problems, physical, psychosocial and spiritualâ to maintain or improve quality of life . Parallel to the development of palliative care dementia care developed separately both based on the same values for enhancing care of people with dementia and improving quality of life . Notably lessons learned from palliative care for people with cancer cannot simply be transferred to palliative care for people with dementia.

    As dementia progresses people experience reduced or lost verbal communication abilities with a consequent impact on care. Despite restrictions in verbal communication people with advanced dementia can use other means of nonverbal communication such as body tension or minimal movements, turning their head away, frequency of breath and paralinguistic signals are all means of communication to express their current wishes or needs . Agreement or rejection reactions in a situation can be observed, although interpretation of nonverbal communication varies between health professionals .

    How Do You Die From Dementia: Answering Top Dementia Questions

    Can you die from dementia? is a common question and concern among adult children with aging parents in Wisconsin and other parts of the US.

    Other questions surrounding elderly adults with dementia include:

    • Can dementia kill you?
    • How do you die from dementia?
    • How does dementia kill you?
    • Can you die from Alzheimers?

    Though seemingly similar, these questions address subtle differences in the complications and nature of dementias effects on the body.

    If youre an adult child or family caregiver with a family member suffering from dementia, you may have these questions. You may also wonder what to do for parents or family members with dementia.

    In this article, were sharing the symptoms and complications of dementia, how dementia affects an individual at the end of life, and how to care for a loved one with dementia.

    Keep reading to get answers to your questions about dementia.

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    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.

    Care In The Last Days Of Life With Dementia

    What is dementia?

    We use the words dying or terminal to describe when a person is in the last few days or hours of life. Sometimes a death is sudden and unexpected. More often, though, a person shows signs that they are dying: it is important to recognise these and plan ahead. This section will help you to anticipate and manage symptoms, as well as provide some tips to help prepare family and loved ones through what is a highly emotional and uncertain time.

    I dont want my mother to die alone. I want her to be comfortable and to die with dignity.

    A daughter of a person with dementia.

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    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.

    Who Is At Risk For Vascular Dementia

    Some risk factors for vascular dementia can be managed others, like age and gender, cannot. Among all factors, high blood pressure carries the greatest risk vascular dementia almost never occurs without it.

    Likewise, a high risk of stroke goes hand in hand with risk for vascular dementia. One-quarter to one-third of strokes are thought to result in some degree of dementia. People who smoke, consume excessive amounts of alcohol, have diabetes, or heart disease also have a higher rate of the condition.

    Vascular dementia most commonly occurs in people between the ages of 60 and 75. Men seem to be more vulnerable than women, and the condition affects African-Americans more often than other races. People whose age, sex, or race puts them at increased risk of vascular dementia have that much more reason to manage risk factors within their control.

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    What Are The Risk Factors For Dementia

    Risk factors for dementia include:

    • Age: This is the strongest risk factor. Your chance of dementia increases as you age. Most cases affect people over the age of 65.
    • Family history: If you have biological parents or siblings with dementia, youre more likely to develop dementia.
    • Down syndrome: If you have Down syndrome, youre at risk of developing early-onset Alzheimers disease by middle age.
    • Poor heart health: If you have high cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, atherosclerosis or smoke, you increase your risk of dementia. These health problems, as well as diabetes, affect your blood vessels. Damaged blood vessels can lead to reduced blood flow and strokes.
    • Race and ethnicity: If youre a Black person, you have twice the risk as a white person for developing dementia. If youre a Hispanic person, youre 1.5 times more likely than a white person to develop dementia.
    • Brain injury: If youve had a severe brain injury, youre at a higher risk for dementia.

    Caring For Someone With Dementia Towards The End Of Life

    Dementia is often overlooked as a cause of death

    Please be aware – this information is for healthcare professionals. We also have information for the public.

    You can use our My Learning form to reflect on how this page has helped with your continuing professional development.

    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.

    On this page:

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    Support Their Cultural And Spiritual Needs

    Its good to be aware of the persons cultural and spiritual needs and make sure these are respected and supported. You can make use of any advance care plans or documents, friends and family input and your knowledge of the person. Its important to try and meet these needs as much as possible, they are just as important as medical care.

    How Is Dementia Fatal And Why

    An increasing leading cause of death among the elderly today is dementia. Dementia is a group of brain degenerative diseases that cause memory and thought impairment. There are different types of dementia that can affect people at various stages throughout old age.

    Although there is no specific known cause of dementia, many times it results from the gradual deterioration of the brain which causes a severe impact on cognitive function over time. Its helpful to know what to expect if you care for someone with dementia.

    If left unaddressed, the symptoms of dementia and the changes it causes can be overwhelming and sometimes frightening. Why exactly is dementia so fatal? How does dementia eventually kill you?

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    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.

    Bring Hope To Dementia Patients With Stowell Associates

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    If you have a friend or loved one diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimers disease, you may have many questions, like:

    • What is dementia?
    • How do people die from dementia?
    • Why is dementia fatal?

    Dementia is a progressive disease, meaning that the complications of dementia get worse over time. Individuals with dementia often start with symptoms like forgetting new names and places. As dementia progresses, individuals can become confused in familiar places and even lose the ability to swallow or walk.

    Its often these more progressive symptoms that attribute to someones death, not the dementia itself.

    But just because a loved one has dementia doesnt mean they cant enjoy life. There are still many things you can do to improve their quality of life, and getting professional in-home care is a good place to start.

    The professional caregivers at Stowell Associates are here to help care for your aging loved ones. As a leading provider ofcaregiver and care management services in Milwaukee, Kenosha, Racine, and Waukesha, WI, Stowell can assist families and patients with:

    • Dementia Care

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    How Does A Person Die From Dementia

    Can dementia kill? Alzheimers 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 Complications Of Dementia

    A common question people have when they hear that a loved one has dementia is, How can you die from dementia?

    Though dementia itself may not be the final cause of death, the complications of dementia, like infections, cardiovascular diseases, malnutrition, and falls can be fatal.

    Dementia often progresses through a variety of different signs and symptoms:

    • Memory Difficulties and Loss: Memory issues are often the first signs of dementia, and they can be an ongoing problem with most patients.
    • Disorientation: People with Alzheimers can become confused in familiar situations or surroundings, such as at home.
    • Language Problems: This may be an issue with frontotemporal dementia, one of the less common forms.
    • Problems Completing Complex Tasks: Problems following a set of instructions, such as brush your teeth, may signify that dementia is affecting higher-level brain functions.
    • Wandering: People with dementia may wander and become lost or disoriented, even in familiar places.
    • Physical Difficulties: Dementia may cause physical changes, such as weight loss or dehydration, affecting overall health. In late stage dementia, eating and walking can become difficult.
    • Delusions and Hallucinations: People with delusions may become anxious or agitated. This problem can be worse at night.

    Through all these stages, its important to have the right support in your corner. Dementia patients often end up requiring24-hour in-home care to support them through the decline.

    Read Also: How To Deal With Dementia Patients

    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.

    Why Are More People Dying Of Dementia


    Its likely due to a combination of factors, says David A. Merrill, MD, PhD, a neurologist and geriatric psychiatrist at Providence Saint Johns Health Center in Santa Monica, Calif.

    Theres a silver tsunami, he says. People are living longer and into old age, and we know that age is the single largest non-modifiable risk factor for dementia.

    Plus, there is also more of an awareness of the disease among the medical community and people as a whole, Dr. Merrill says, even though the way that dementia is diagnosed hasnt changed. It may be that dementia is being looked for more now than in the past, he says, leading to an uptick in numbers.

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