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How Long Does Someone With Dementia Usually Live

Causes Of Vascular Dementia

How long does dementia last?

Vascular dementia is caused by reduced blood flow to the brain, which damages and eventually kills brain cells.

This can happen as a result of:

  • narrowing and blockage of the small blood vessels inside the brain
  • a single stroke, where the blood supply to part of the brain is suddenly cut off
  • lots of “mini strokes” that cause tiny but widespread damage to the brain

In many cases, these problems are linked to underlying conditions, such as high blood pressure and diabetes, and lifestyle factors, such as smoking and being overweight.

Tackling these might reduce your risk of vascular dementia in later life, although it’s not yet clear exactly how much your risk of dementia can be reduced.

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.

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

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Dementia Stages: How Fast Dementia Progresses Stages Of Dementia And More

Dementia is a progressive impairment of cognitive function caused by damage to the brain. Over time, a person with dementia will have increased difficulty with memory, understanding, communication, and reasoning.

Healthcare providers frequently speak about a persons dementia in terms of stages. This can be helpful for communicating with family or other healthcare providers regarding the persons illness, and it is important for determining an appropriate care plan.

How Fast Does Dementia Progress?

It is important to note that dementia progresses at different speeds for every person, and for different types of dementia. The most well-known form of dementia, Alzheimers disease, is just one specific type of dementia, and tends to have the slowest progression of all types. Some factors that affect the rate of progression include:

  • Age
  • Repeated infections

What are the Stages of Dementia?

There are a few different systems used to grade dementia — at the most basic there is early, moderate, and end. Many providers use the system developed by Dr. Barry Reisberg of New York University which includes 7 stages. The Reisberg scale is also known as the GDS or Global Deterioration Scale for Assessment of Primary Degenerative Dementia. This scale focuses primarily on cognitive abilities.

Dementia Stages in the Reisberg Scale

Dementia Stages in the FAST Scale

Dementia Stages in the CDR Scale

How Does Dementia Reduce Life Expectancy

How Long Do People Live With Dementia?

Dementia reduces life expectancy in two ways.

First, some of the diseases that are closely linked to Alzheimers disease and vascular dementia, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease can mean a lower life expectancy. For example, vascular dementia is closely linked to heart disease and stroke. A person with vascular dementia is at risk of dying at any stage of dementia, from one of these.

The other way that dementia reduces life expectancy is through the effects of severe disease.

These all make them much more likely to develop other medical problems that can lead to death, such as infections or cardiovascular problems .

This is why the later stage of dementia is often the shortest.

A person with dementia can also die at any stage from another condition not closely related to their dementia. Cancer and lung disease are common examples.

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How To Test For Dementia

There is no single test that can determine a person is suffering from dementia. The doctor can diagnose different types of dementia such as Alzheimers based on their medical history.

This has to be done very carefully. In addition, the doctor may conduct laboratory tests, physical examinations, and changes in the way the patient thinks.

When all things are considered carefully, a doctor can be able to determine that a person is actually suffering from dementia with certainty. Determining the type of dementia can be hard, especially due to the fact that brain changes and symptoms that are associated with the different types of dementias sometimes overlap.

It is normal for the doctor to give a diagnosis of dementia without really specifying the type. In such a case, it is important for the patient to visit a specialist in this area like a psychologist or neurologist for a more specific diagnosis.

Stage : Mild Dementia Due To Alzheimers Disease

The symptoms of Alzheimers disease during this stage are still mild however, close friends and family may begin to notice signs and symptoms of the disease. Work quality will begin to suffer, and the individual is likely to experience problems when trying to learn something new. Although stage three lasts for approximately seven years, symptoms will become more apparent over a span of two to four years. Its during stage three that Alzheimers disease is most often diagnosed, as it becomes apparent to family and medical professionals that the individual is having significant trouble with memory and thinking, so much so, that it impacts day-to-day activities.

In stage three, an individual may require counseling. They may have mild to moderate denial, depression and anxiety. As this stage progresses and their symptoms worsen, they may require caregiving assistance in their home or in a senior care community.

In stage three, individuals may experience:

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Caring For Someone With A Dementia Diagnosis

Finding out someone you care about has dementia can be a piece of life-shattering news. So many questions, fears, and sorrows come with the realization that a friend or family member will soon be rapidly declining in their last years of life.

There are ways to find peace, support, and adequate care for your loved one with dementia. It might take some time at first, but developing a care plan can make everyones life easier in the next phase.

What Are Specific Care Needs At Each Stage

Living with dementia

An individual may not require care assistance after the initial diagnosis of dementia, but that will change as the disease progresses and symptoms become worse. There are about 16 million unpaid caregivers of people with dementia in the United States. While many caregivers are providing daily help for family members, they also hire someone to help. There are many options of care assistance, such as in-home care, adult day care, and nursing home care. There is also financial assistance available.

Early Stage DementiaAs mentioned above, in the early stage of dementia a person can function rather independently and requires little care assistance. Simple reminders of appointments and names of people may be needed. Caregivers can also assist with coping strategies to help loved ones remain as independent as possible, such as writing out a daily to-do list and a schedule for taking medications. Safety should always be considered, and if any tasks cannot be performed safely alone, supervision and assistance should be provided. During this period of dementia, its a good idea for caregivers and loved ones to discuss the future. For example, a long-term care plan should be made and financial and legal matters put in place.

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Stage : Age Associated Memory Impairment

This stage features occasional lapses of memory most frequently seen in:

  • Forgetting where one has placed an object
  • Forgetting names that were once very familiar

Oftentimes, this mild decline in memory is merely normal age-related cognitive decline, but it can also be one of the earliest signs of degenerative dementia. At this stage, signs are still virtually undetectable through clinical testing. Concern for early onset of dementia should arise with respect to other symptoms.

Signs And Symptoms Of Alzheimers Disease

Alzheimers disease is a progressive condition, which means the symptoms develop gradually over many years and eventually become more severe. It affects multiple brain functions.

The first sign of Alzheimers disease is usually minor memory problems.

For example, this could be forgetting about recent conversations or events, and forgetting the names of places and objects.

As the condition develops, memory problems become more severe and further symptoms can develop, such as:

  • confusion, disorientation and getting lost in familiar places
  • difficulty planning or making decisions
  • problems with speech and language
  • problems moving around without assistance or performing self-care tasks
  • personality changes, such as becoming aggressive, demanding and suspicious of others

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Support For People With Dementia And Carers

UCL covid-19 decision aid – a tool to support carers of people living with dementia to make difficult decisions during covid-19

Alzheimers Society end of life care information for patients and families

Alzheimers Society information and fact sheets on all aspects of dementia including what is dementia, types of dementia and living well with dementia

Alzheimer Scotland specialist services for patients and carers

Dementia UK expert one-on-one advice and support to families living with dementia via Admiral Nurses

How Long Will You Live After A Dementia Diagnosis

How Long Do People Live After Being Diagnosed With Dementia?

Its sad but true that people with dementia usually have shorter lives. However, exactly how much shorter their life will vary enormously from person to person. Heres the key information about life expectancy, but remember, these are only general statistics so think carefully about whether you want to know before you read on.

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Check Their Advance Care Plan

You should find out if the person has an advance care plan. This document may record their preferences about the care theyd like to receive, including what they want to happen, what they dont want to happen and who they want to speak on their behalf. It may include an advance statement or an advance decision. We have information on planning ahead for patients and their families, which you might find useful.

When Should I Ask For Support

Supporting people with dementia at the end of their life requires a team approach. Often, there will be many people involved in the persons care at the end of their life. Good communication and information sharing helps to ensure the person receives the care they need.

If youre unsure about anything or have any concerns seek advice from a colleague, manager or another health care professional.

There may be certain professionals who can advise on specific issues. These may include a GP, district nurses, social workers, other care staff and specialists.

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Outlook For Vascular Dementia

Vascular dementia will usually get worse over time. This can happen in sudden steps, with periods in between where the symptoms do not change much, but it’s difficult to predict when this will happen.

Home-based help will usually be needed, and some people will eventually need care in a nursing home.

Although treatment can help, vascular dementia can significantly shorten life expectancy.

But this is highly variable, and many people live for several years with the condition, or die from some other cause.

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with dementia, remember that you’re not alone. The NHS and social services, as well as voluntary organisations, can provide advice and support for you and your family.

What Are The Signs That Someone With Dementia Is Dying

Olives story: living with vascular dementia

It is difficult to know when a person with dementia is coming to the end of their life. However, there are some symptoms that may indicate the person is at the end of their life including:

  • limited speech
  • needing help with everyday activities
  • eating less and swallowing difficulties
  • incontinence and becoming bed bound.

When these are combined with frailty, recurrent infections and/or pressure ulcers, the person is likely to be nearing the end of their life. If the person has another life limiting condition , their condition is likely to worsen in a more predictable way.

When a person gets to within a few days or hours of dying, further changes are common. These include:

  • deteriorating more quickly
  • irregular breathing
  • cold hands and feet.

These are part of the dying process, and its important to be aware of them so that you can help family and friends understand what is happening.

When a person with dementia is at the end of life its important to support the person to be as comfortable as possible until they die

For more information, see our page, Signs that someone is in their last days or hours.

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What Is The Average Life Expectancy

Life expectancy varies for each person with AD. The average life expectancy after diagnosis is eight to 10 years. In some cases, however, it can be as short as three years or as long as 20 years.

AD can go undiagnosed for several years, too. In fact, the average length of time between when symptoms begin and when an AD diagnosis is made is 2.8 years.

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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.

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Where To Live With Dementia

Eventually, caregiving for someone with dementia wont be appropriate anymore. The needs of a person with progressive dementia become overwhelming, and moving into a full-time residence with trained staff becomes necessary. You should plan for this well before it becomes necessary, by visiting communities and asking the right questions.

Depending on your loved ones stage of illness, different living options are available:

Assisted Living in Early StagesAssisted living residences combine room and board with medical and personal care, and are often sufficient for someone in the early stages of Alzheimers disease or related dementia. Full-time supervision means residents are safe, with living units like private studios or apartments so someone with mild dementia can still feel a sense of independence.

Services offered in assisted living include meals, help with activities of daily living , social activities, and transportation to and from doctors appointments. Before moving in, the residence will assess your loved one to make sure its a good fit.

Memory care residences have physical designs that are appropriate for people with dementia. Someone with Alzheimers, for instance, may become upset when encountering a wall, so memory care buildings have circular hallways. Because people with dementia are prone to wander, memory care residences have increased security and supervision, and special locks on doors.

Did You Know?

Care In The Later Stages Of Dementia

Alzheimer

There are medicines used in the early stages of dementia that manage some of the behavioural symptoms. In the later stages some of these medicines can do more harm than good causing severe side effects that can increase confusion and frailty. It also becomes harder to diagnose and manage some of the normal illnesses that older people get such as Urinary Tract Infections . UTIs can exaggerate some symptoms of dementia and increase confusion sometimes know as delirium.

Pain is also something that can be present in the later stages of dementia, but can be harder to diagnose if the person isnt able to communicate it. For all of these reasons, its important to stay vigilant when looking after someone with dementia, and to talk to the GP if you are worried about anything.

There are dementia living aids and products that can help you to care for someone living with dementia. Something like a simple dementia clock or personal alarm can make the world of difference to your life and the live of the person you care for.

Receive tips and advice. Plus, useful products, real-life stories and discounts.

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How Long Will A Person With Dementia Live For

Whatever type of dementia a person has, their life expectancy is on average lower. This is why dementia is called a life-limiting condition. This can be very upsetting to think about.

However, its important to remember that, no matter how a persons dementia changes over time, there are ways to live well with the condition.

Good support can make a huge difference to the persons quality of life at all stages of dementia.

How long a person lives with dementia varies greatly from person to person. It depends on many factors, such as the ones listed on The progression and stages of dementia page.

Other factors include:

  • how far dementia had progressed when the person was diagnosed
  • what other serious health conditions the person with dementia has such as diabetes, cancer, or heart problems
  • how old the person was when their symptoms started older people are more likely than younger people to have other health conditions that may lower their life expectancy. A person in their 90s who is diagnosed with dementia is more likely to die from other health problems before they reach the later stages than is a person diagnosed in their 70s.

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