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How Long Can A Person Live With Severe Dementia

Physical Difficulties In The Later Stages Of Dementia

Living with dementia: the long goodbye | DW Reporter

The physical changes of late-stage dementia are partly why the person is likely to need much more support with daily living. At this stage they may:

  • walk more slowly, with a shuffle and less steadily eventually they may spend more time in a chair or in bed
  • be at increased risk of falls
  • need a lot of help with eating and so lose weight
  • have difficulty swallowing
  • be incontinent losing control of their bladder and bowels.

The persons reduced mobility, in particular, raises their chances of blood clots and infections. These can be very serious or even fatal so it is vital that the person is supported to be as mobile as they can.

Life Expectancy And Vascular Dementia

Repeated small strokes can damage the brain and cause vascular dementia. Its the second most common cause of the disease. The pattern of disease progression is different from the gradual deterioration of Alzheimers disease. The symptoms may be steady for a while, then suddenly get worse followed by a further period of stability. This reflects times when blood clots interrupt the blood supply to the brain, causing damage.

Because people with vascular dementia is linked to strokes, people affected often have other illnesses and may have worse general health. Research suggests that the average life expectancy is around four years. However, sudden or severe deterioration can happen when there is a further stroke.

What Is The Treatment For Dementia

    Although an individual with dementia should always be under medical care, family members handle much of the day-to-day care. Medical care should focus on optimizing the individual’s health and quality of life while helping family members cope with the many challenges of caring for a loved one with dementia. Medical care depends on the underlying condition, but it most often consists of medications and nondrug treatments such as behavioral therapy.

    However, early investigation into the cause of dementia symptoms is urged because, as mentioned previously in the causes of dementia section. There are some conditions that when adequately treated may either limit or reverse dementia.

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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 Happens In The Later Stages Of Dementia

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    • Progressive loss of memoryThis can be a particularly disturbing time for family and carers as the person with dementia may fail to recognise close family members.
    • Increased loss of physical abilitiesMost people with dementia gradually lose their ability to walk, wash, dress and feed themselves. Other illnesses such as stroke or arthritis may also affect them. Eventually the person will be confined to a bed or a chair.
    • Increased difficulty communicatingA person with dementia will have increasing difficulty in understanding what is said or what is going on around them. They may gradually lose their speech, or repeat a few words or cry out from time to time. But continuing to communicate with them is very important. Remember, although many abilities are lost as dementia progresses, some – such as the sense of touch and ability to respond to emotions – remain.
    • Problems eatingIt is common for people in the later stages of dementia to lose a considerable amount of weight. People may forget how to eat or drink, or may not recognise the food they are given. Some people become unable to swallow properly. Providing nutrition supplements may need to be considered. If a person has swallowing difficulties, or is not consuming food or drink over a significant period of time and their health is affected, nutrition supplements may be considered for consumption other than by mouth.

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    Stages And Progression Of Lewy Body Dementia

    Claudia Chaves, MD, is board-certified in cerebrovascular disease and neurology with a subspecialty certification in vascular neurology.

    If you or someone you know has recently been diagnosed with Lewy body dementia, you might be wondering what to expect as the disease progresses. Is there a fairly typical progression like Alzheimer’s disease where it begins in early stages that are fairly uniform, then moves to middle stages and then to late stages? In Lewy body dementia, the answer is a bit more complicated.

    What Diseases Or Conditions May Worsen Dementia

    Treatable disorders revealed by the diagnostic evaluation should receive prompt attention.

    • Common, treatable conditions that cause or worsen dementia include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes, infections, head injuries, brain tumors, hydrocephalus, anemia, hypoxia, hormone imbalances, and nutritional deficiencies.
    • Treatment varies by disorder, but some treatments may rapidly reverse the dementia symptoms.

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    Are There Any Treatments

    There are treatments that can help with the symptoms of some forms of dementia for a period of time, but there are currently no treatments that slow, halt or reverse the changes in the brain caused by the diseases. There are currently no treatments specifically for vascular dementia or frontotemporal dementia.

    In the case of vascular dementia, a doctor may prescribe medication to treat underlying cardiovascular risk factors like high blood pressure or diabetes. Physiotherapy, speech therapy or occupational therapy may be offered to help with speech or movement problems. Non-drug treatments such as cognitive therapies may be available and can help some people with dementia to manage their symptoms.

    Alzheimer’s Society has more information on treatments for dementia.

    Tests For Vascular Dementia

    How long does dementia last?

    There’s no single test for vascular dementia.

    The tests that are needed to make a diagnosis include:

    • an assessment of symptoms for example, whether these are typical symptoms of vascular dementia
    • a full medical history, including asking about a history of conditions related to vascular dementia, such as strokes or high blood pressure
    • an assessment of mental abilities this will usually involve several tasks and questions
    • a brain scan, such as an MRI scan or CT scan, to look for any changes that have happened in your brain

    Find out more about the tests used to diagnose dementia.

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    Dementia And Early Death

    Across the globe, dementia rates are expected to double every 20 years for the foreseeable future, with an estimated 81 million cases by 2040.

    It is clear from earlier studies that people with dementia have decreased survival compared with people without dementia. Even mild mental impairment linked to dementia is associated with an increase in death risk.

    But the characteristics associated with mortality among patients with dementia have not been well understood.

    There is general agreement that women with dementia tend to live slightly longer than men, but the impact of other characteristics, including education level, age at diagnosis, and marital status are less well known.

    And many previous studies have been restricted to patients being treated for the disorder by a specialist or in a hospital setting, Brayne says.

    “We wanted to see what is happening with the entire population, not just people who are treated for dementia,” she says.

    Slightly over two-thirds of the people in the study who developed dementia were women, and the median age at dementia onset was 84 for women and 83 for men.

    The median age at death was 90 for women and 87 for men. And average survival times varied from a high of 10.7 years for the youngest patients to a low of 3.8 years for the oldest .

    As in other studies, dementia was associated with shorter survival, but the cognitive level among people with dementia did not appear to play a major role in death.

    Caregiving In The Late Stages

    According to the Alzheimers Association, the later stages will be the most difficult, as your loved one is now very frail and relies on you for most of their daily care. At this late stage, encouraging your loved one to eat and sleep will grow increasingly difficult. During this time, they may lose the ability to walk steadily, so an occupational therapist may help them stay mobile without falling. Gather a team of experts to help you, like a speech therapist to help with communication and a nutritionist to recommend the best food and alternative food options, like blended meals, smoothies, and finger foods, that boost the immunity and are packed with nutrition. Incontinence, severe memory loss and disorientation, immune system problems, repetitive movements, and strange or unusual behavior must all be managed during this stage as well.

    Watching a loved one live with dementia is never easy. With the proper tools, you can help them navigate their symptoms to live an enriching life. Staying on top of the latest research with Google alerts and attending seminars from expert speakers and medical professionals will keep you up-to-date on new treatments and care techniques. Most importantly, find a supportive community. There are many support groups for caregivers where you can share your successes, frustrations, fears, and joys with other caregivers. Remember, you are not alone!

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    Phases Of The Condition

    Some of the features of dementia are commonly classified into three stages or phases. It is important to remember that not all of these features will be present in every person, nor will every person go through every stage. However, it remains a useful description of the general progression of dementia.

    • Early Dementia
    • Advanced Dementia

    The Start Of The Dying Process

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    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.

    Need help finding dementia information?

    Find the information and support you’re looking for with our free online tool.

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    Keeping People With Dementia At Home Longer

    Addressing safety, medical issues key to independent living, researcher says

    HealthDay Reporter

    FRIDAY, Dec. 20, 2013 — Most Americans with dementia who live at home have numerous health, safety and supportive care needs that aren’t being met, a new study shows.

    Any one of these issues could force people with dementia out of the home sooner than they desire, the Johns Hopkins researchers noted.

    Routine assessments of patient and caregiver care needs coupled with simple safety measures — such as grab bars in the bathroom — and basic medical and supportive services could help prevent many people with dementia from ending up in a nursing home or assisted-living facility, the researchers added.

    “Currently, we can’t cure their dementia, but we know there are things that, if done systematically, can keep people with dementia at home longer,” said study leader Betty Black, an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “But our study shows that without some intervention, the risks for many can be quite serious,” she said in a Hopkins news release.

    For the study, published in the December issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, Black’s team performed in-home assessments and surveys of more than 250 people with dementia living at home in Baltimore. They also interviewed about 250 family members and friends who provided care for the patients.

    Average Dementia Survival: 45 Years

    Study of Dementia Patients Shows Women Live Slightly Longer Than Men

    Jan. 10, 2008 — The average survival time for people diagnosed with dementia is about four and a half years, new research shows. Those diagnosed before age 70 typically live for a decade or longer.

    In an effort to learn more about survival characteristics among patients with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias, researchers from the U.K.’s University of Cambridge followed 13,000 people who were aged 65 and older for 14 years.

    During the follow-up, 438 of the study participants developed dementia and 356 of these people died.

    Overall, women lived slightly longer than men after a diagnosis of dementia — around 4.6 years vs. 4.1 years. And frailer patients died sooner than healthier ones.

    But being married, living at home, and even degree of mental decline were not found to have a big impact on survival.

    The research is published in the Jan. 11 issue of the journal BMJ Online First.

    “When we took everything into account, the big predictors of how long people survive remain sex, age, and functional ability,” University of Cambridge professor of epidemiology Carol Brayne tells WebMD. “Functional ability was a much better marker of how close someone was to death than cognitive decline.”

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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.

    Facts About The Future

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    Studies into the main types of dementia have revealed the following about life expectancy

    Alzheimers disease

    General life expectancy for someone with Alzheimers is around 8-12 years from diagnosis although this does depend on age and health. If you were relatively fit and healthy on the diagnosis you could live considerably longer than this. People who are diagnosed around the age of 65 tend to decline more slowly than those who are aged 80 or over. But with the right care and treatment, a fit and healthy 80 year old could still live into their nineties.

    Did you know? A US study of 1,300 men and women with Alzheimers showed life expectancy to range from one year to 26 years from when their symptoms first appeared

    Vascular dementia

    Since vascular dementia is often linked to strokes people who are living with it can be in poorer general health than those with other types of dementia. Studies have shown their average life expectancy to be around four years after diagnosis, though their eventual decline is often linked to further strokes.

    Dementia with Lewy bodies

    After diagnosis, the average lifespan of someone with dementia with Lewy bodies was found in one study to be around 5-7 years after onset. However people have been known to live between two and 20 years with it, depending on their age, and other medical conditions they may have, such as Parkinsons disease which can be related to dementia with Lewy bodies.

    Frontotemporal dementia

    Young-onset dementia

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    The 7 Stages Of Dementia

    Alzheimers disease and other common forms of dementia including vascular dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies, and frontotemporal dementia are progressive conditions, with symptoms worsening over time as the disease progresses. Learn more about the stages of dementia and what to expect from your loved one as dementia progresses.

    Although the two terms are often used interchangeably, Alzheimers disease and dementia are two different terms. Dementia is an umbrella term used to describe several conditions and it includes Alzheimers, as well as other conditions with shared symptoms. More than mere forgetfulness, an individual must have trouble with at least two of the following cognitive areas to be diagnosed with dementia:

    • Memory
    • Reasoning and judgment
    • Visual perception

    The assessment tools used to determine which stage of dementia a person is experiencing are meant to be a guide and a rough outline of what caregivers can expect and when they can expect it. Some symptoms may occur later than others, others may appear in a different order than the scale predicts, and some may not appear at all. Some symptoms may appear and then vanish, while others will continue to worsen over time. Because every person is different and dementia manifests itself uniquely, the speed at which dementia progresses varies widely. On average, a person with Alzheimers disease lives 4 to 8 years after a diagnosis, but some have been seen to live as long as 20 years.

    Care In The Last Days Of Life With 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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