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Why Do People Die From Dementia

Different Types Of Dementia

Why Does Dementia Cause Death?

Alzheimers Disease

Alzheimers is the most common form of dementia in the United States. Its also the leading cause of death among dementia patients. The National Institute on Aging claims Alzheimers is the sixth leading cause of death among Americans as a whole.

Alzheimers is characterized by a decline in cognitive function in elderly people. The onset can be between the ages of 30-60 years old, on average. It results from a loss in the connection between neurons in the brain. Symptoms include memory loss, strange behavior, and language complications.

Vascular Dementia

In anatomy, vascular has to do with the blood vessels. The term applies to anything that carries blood or oxygen through the body. Therefore, Vascular dementia is one of a blockage or lack of blood or oxygen to the brain.

If an aging person experiences a lack of blood flow for whatever reason, it can contribute to loss of brain function, resulting in dementia. A person with vascular dementia loses their normal thinking capacity and struggles with memory, disorientation, and physical numbness.

This type of dementia is the second most common type of dementia, but it is often left undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. Because its so misdiagnosed, it coincides with the other most common among dementia disorders with another type, called Lewy Body dementia.

Lewy Body Dementia

Frontotemporal Dementia

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

Take Part In Dementia Research

There are many dementia research projects and clinical trials going on around the world, many of which are based in the UK.

If you have a dementia diagnosis or are worried about memory problems, you can help scientists understand more about it, and develop possible treatments, by taking part in research.

Carers can also take part, as there are studies into the best ways to care for someone with a dementia diagnosis.

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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:

How Is Dementia Fatal And Why

Why Do People Die From Dementia?

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 Does Best Practice Look Like Introducing The Priorities For Care Of The Dying Person

There are five priorities:

  • Recognise: The possibility that a person may die within the next few days or hours is recognised and communicated clearly, decisions made and actions taken in accordance with the persons needs and wishes, and these are regularly reviewed and decisions revised accordingly. Always consider reversible causes, for example, infection, dehydration, hypercalcaemia.
  • Communicate: Sensitive communication takes place between staff and the dying person, and those identified as important to them.
  • Involve: The dying person, and those identified as important to them, are involved in decisions about treatment and care to the extent that the dying person wants.
  • Support: The needs of families and others identified as important to the dying person are actively explored, respected and met as far as possible.
  • Plan & Do: An individual plan of care, which includes food and drink, symptom control and psychological, social and spiritual support, is agreed, coordinated and delivered with compassion.

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.

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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.

Stage : Mild Cognitive Impairment

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Clear cognitive problems begin to manifest in stage 3. A few signs of stage 3 dementia include:

  • Getting lost easily
  • Noticeably poor performance at work
  • Forgetting the names of family members and close friends
  • Difficulty retaining information read in a book or passage
  • Losing or misplacing important objects
  • Difficulty concentrating

Patients often start to experience mild to moderate anxiety as these symptoms increasingly interfere with day to day life. Patients who may be in this stage of dementia are encouraged to have a clinical interview with a clinician for proper diagnosis.

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How Might Dementia Affect People Towards The End Of Life

Dementia is progressive, which means it gets worse over time. In the last year of life, its likely to have a big impact on the persons abilities including memory, communication and everyday activities. The speed at which someone will get worse will depend on the type of dementia they have and who they are as an individual.

The symptoms of later stage dementia include the following:

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 .

End Of Life Dementia Care And Covid

Older adults and people with serious underlying medical conditions are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19. Older adults also have the highest rates of dementia. Given the risks that older adults face from both COVID-19 and dementia, its important to understand how to protect yourself and your loved one. Find more information about dementia and COVID-19 from the CDC.

When a dementia like Alzheimers disease is first diagnosed, if everyone understands that there is no cure, then plans for the end of life can be made before thinking and speaking abilities fail and the person with Alzheimers can no longer legally complete documents like advance directives.

End-of-life care decisions are more complicated for caregivers if the dying person has not expressed the kind of care he or she would prefer. Someone newly diagnosed with Alzheimers disease might not be able to imagine the later stages of the disease.

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Are There Any Treatments For Dementia

At this time there is no treatment for dementia. There is only medical care that can help manage symptoms and support people through their gradual decline.

The options for proper medical care with the diagnosis often include specialty caregivers, individual and family support groups, healthy diet and exercise, and frequent check-ins with your doctor.

Depending on which stage of dementia you or your loved one is in, the level of care required will vary. Someone in the earlier stages might need little to no care if symptoms are mild and not affecting daily life.

On the other hand, someone in the final stages of dementia will most certainly require 24/7 caregiving and constant supervision. If they dont have the proper care they need to avoid a risk factor such as choking or falling, it could lead to death.

Youll Probably Need To Build A Support Network

Why do people with Lewy Body Dementia just stop walking ...

Caring for someone in late stage dementia can be intense, demanding, and rewarding all in a single day. Youll be better equipped for the challenge if you can call on a varied group of support providers.

Nurses, doctors, home health aides, physical and occupational therapists, and hospice workers can help you take care of physical and medical needs. Mental health professionals, members of a faith community, and friends can help you meet emotional, social, and spiritual needs.

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Causes Of Vascular Dementia

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

Not everyone who has a stroke will go on to develop vascular dementia.

Read more about vascular dementia.

Causes Of Dementia With Lewy Bodies

Lewy bodies are tiny clumps of a protein called alpha-synuclein that can develop inside brain cells.

These clumps damage the way the cells work and communicate with each other, and the brain cells eventually die.

Dementia with Lewy bodies is closely related to Parkinson’s disease and often has some of the same symptoms, including difficulty with movement and a higher risk of falls.

Read more about dementia with Lewy bodies.

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What Can Be Done To Stem Dementia Deaths

Colin Ford, policy director for the Michigan chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, hopes the COVID-19 vaccines will alleviate much of this issue. The association advocates for more rapid testing in nursing homes and more personal protective equipment to make homes safer from COVID-19 so they can be opened for visitors.

Heidebrink urges people to do what they can to interact safely with loved ones. That means phone calls, window visits, video chats, establishing a good relationship with caregivers and informing them of a loved one’s preferences and quirks.

“It means getting creative,” Heidebrink said.

“It’s been a challenge for everybody,” she said. “I really can’t think of a time that’s wiped out so many tools and affected so many people in so many ways.”

For resources for Alzheimer’s patients or caregivers: alz.org

Follow reporter Georgea Kovanis on Twitter:

What Happens In The Later Stages Of Dementia

Why you SHOULDNT tell someone with dementia a loved one has died!
  • 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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Alma And Silvias Story

Alma had been forgetful for years, but even after her family knew that Alzheimers disease was the cause of her forgetfulness, they never talked about what the future would bring. As time passed and the disease eroded Almas memory and ability to think and speak, she became less and less able to share her concerns and wishes with those close to her.

This made it hard for her daughter Silvia to know what Alma needed or wanted. When the doctors asked about feeding tubes or antibiotics to treat pneumonia, Silvia didnt know how to best reflect her mothers wishes. Her decisions had to be based on what she knew about her moms values, rather than on what Alma actually said she wanted.

Quality of life is an important issue when making healthcare decisions for people with dementia. For example, medicines are available that may delay or keep symptoms from becoming worse for a little while. Medicines also may help control some behavioral symptoms in people with mild-to-moderate Alzheimers disease.

However, some caregivers might not want drugs prescribed for people in the later stages of Alzheimers. They may believe that the persons quality of life is already so poor that the medicine is unlikely to make a difference. If the drug has serious side effects, they may be even more likely to decide against it.

Why Do Dementia Patients Stop Eating

There are multiple reasons why do dementia patients stop eating and it is important to understand why they may start to avoid food.

Dementia patients might refuse to eat if they either dislike the food or are trying to tell you their meal is too hot or too cold.

They may not even know that they should chew and swallow it.

Patients diagnosed with dementia will experience a as well as problem-solving and other thinking-related skills.

Alzheimers disease is the most common type of dementia and as many as 50 percent of these individuals find it difficult to eat at some point during their disease .

It becomes increasingly difficult for affected patients to perform normal daily activities. For this and other reasons, patients with dementia will spit out their food or stop eating entirely.

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Stage : Mild Dementia

At this stage, individuals may start to become socially withdrawn and show changes in personality and mood. Denial of symptoms as a defense mechanism is commonly seen in stage 4. Behaviors to look for include:

  • Difficulty remembering things about one’s personal history
  • Disorientation
  • Difficulty recognizing faces and people

In stage 4 dementia, individuals have no trouble recognizing familiar faces or traveling to familiar locations. However, patients in this stage will often avoid challenging situations in order to hide symptoms or prevent stress or anxiety.

Rarer Causes Of Dementia

Supporting people with dementia to die at home in ireland ...

There are many rarer diseases and conditions that can lead to dementia, or dementia-like symptoms.

These conditions account for only 5% of dementia cases in the UK.

They include:

  • problems with planning and reasoning

These symptoms are not severe enough to cause problems in everyday life.

MCI can be caused by an underlying illness, such as depression, anxiety or thyroid problems.

If the underlying illness is treated or managed, symptoms of MCI often disappear and cause no further problems.

But in some cases, people with MCI are at increased risk of going on to develop dementia, which is usually caused by Alzheimer’s disease.

Read more about how to prevent dementia.

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