Towards The End Of Life
It can be very difficult for family and carers to prepare for the end, but by thinking about it and making some plans, it may be a little easier. When someone reaches the final stages of life one of the main concerns is to ensure that they are comfortable and as pain free as possible. If you are concerned that the person with dementia may be in some pain or discomfort, discuss this with the doctor and nursing staff.
What Are Some Complications
At some point, virtually all Alzheimerâs patients will have problems eating. They may stop eating entirely. This straightforwardly leads to malnutrition, weakness, weight loss, and starvation.
As mentioned, above, many Alzheimerâs-afflicted individuals lose the ability to walk. This general immobility leaves the person variously bedridden or wheelchair bound. Normal-functioning people may be at greater risk for health problems when they lead a sedentary lifestyle. But to be more or less completely stationary is much worse. Being motionless in this way can lead to bed sores and blot clots .
In advanced stages, the brain degenerates to the point where it is unable to properly regulate the body. This irregularity can precipitate all sorts of problems, including weakened immunity.
âAspirationâ occurs when a person accidentally inhales bits of food or drops of water. These then end up in the lungs. Without the ability to expel these foreign materials by coughing or sneezing, the individual is at great risk for infections and pneumonia.
Moreover, immune-compromised persons are more susceptible to infections and can develop serious conditions like sepsis.
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.
You May Like: Can Prevagen Help Dementia
How Does Dementia Kill You
Dementia is not a specific disease rather it refers to a series of various symptoms, which take place from damages in human brain and it typically results in memory loss. Alzheimers disease, known as its common form, dementia combined with Lewy bodies, vascular dementia, advanced dementia and frontotemporal dementia are all of the different types of dementia problem.
How Can I Support Someone With Dementia Towards The End Of Life
Knowing the person will make it easier to provide person-centred care that is focused on what they need and want. It can help to know about their likes, dislikes and their wishes for how they want to be cared for. If the person isnt able to tell you about themselves, speak to their family, friends or other people who know them well.
Its a good idea to find out if the person has a copy of This is me , a document that records information about themselves. If you cant speak to the person, ask those close to them if they have a copy. They may have these details recorded in their care plan.
There are many ways to support someone with dementia at the end of life.
You May Like: Does Prevagen Work For Dementia
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 .
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.
Also Check: Senility Vs Dementia Vs Alzheimer’s
Health Conditions And Dementia
Patients may have both chronic and progressive conditions because of dementia problems. These include vascular dementia, Alzheimer problem and dementia with Lewy bodies. This indicates that conditions of any patient become worse steadily.
However, the rate, at which this situation takes place and related effects on the patients life expectancy depend on different factors. These are exact type of dementia suffered by any person, exact cause of the problem, overall health and an individuals lifestyle.
Caring For Someone With Dementia Towards The End Of Life
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:
Recommended Reading: Does Diet Coke Cause Alzheimer’s
Signs And Stages Of Dementia
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
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:
Why Does Dementia Lead To Death
As sad as it is, all forms of dementia are fatal. Eventually, both the brain and body can no longer keep up with the damage caused by the loss of cognitive function. But the disease does not have a specific life expectancy.
Someone with dementia can continue to go about their life for years after diagnosis. Alzheimers Association states that dementia is a progressive or slow disease. This means it takes a long time for dementia to finally take its final toll and end in death.
Some people with dementia live only several months to a year after receiving a diagnosis. Others might end up living semi-normal lives for up to ten years after being diagnosed. It all depends on the person, their health condition, the type of dementia the person has, and the level of care they can receive throughout the remainder of their lives.
Don’t Miss: Ribbon For Alzheimer’s
Youll Probably Need To Build A Support Network
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.
Expert Help Caring For A Parent With Dementia
Dementia is a cognitive disease that often leads to an individuals inability to live and perform daily tasks independently. When you first realize that a loved one has dementia, questions may come to mind like:
- How do you care for someone with dementia?
- How do you die from dementia?
- Can you die from Alzheimers?
- Can dementia kill you?
Stay calm and dont be overwhelmed. Rarely does dementia lead to immediate death, and there are many things you can do to enjoy your family member and provide care for them.
Stowell Associates is an expert elder care agency with trained Care Coaches and Caregivers who can assist you in caring for your aging parent with dementia.
You May Like: Alzheimer’s Disease Color Ribbon
What Was My Experience With My Dad
As I have shared in other places , my dad, Jim, had Alzheimerâs for about ten years. In retrospect, his doctors led us to believe that he had been suffering through early stages of the disease before it was recognized for what it was. During that period of uncertainty, I attributed his attitude and behavioral changes to his becoming crotchety and temperamental.
But, most relevantly, he was diagnosed with arterial blockages and colon cancer. We nursed him through a triple bypass operation and a colectomy. I say that to mention this: For his age, my dad was otherwise physically healthy when his Alzheimerâs was finally diagnosed.
When he underwent heart surgery, he was literally at deathâs door, and he could have expired at any moment. But having had the two surgical interventions, he lived through a full progression of the various stages of his dementia.
We noticed the locomotive and speech degeneration that is typical of Alzheimerâs. Indeed, there were several episodes when he developed blood clots, pneumonia, and urinary-tract infections. He contracted a severe respiratory virus at least once and had a gastro-intestinal bug on another occasion. Any of these events could have resulted in his death. And Jim came close to dying during a few of them.
But, he didnât.
He held on. He came back.
He went into hospice care at least five times. And four times recovered enough to go off hospice.
He lasted in this state for about ten days.
This was exasperating news.
What Are The Main Types Of Dementia
Alzheimers disease is the most common cause of dementia, accounting for around 2 out of every 3 of cases in older people. Vascular dementia is another common form, while dementia with Lewy bodies and frontotemporal dementia are less common.
It is possible to have more than one type of dementia at the same time. Alzheimers is sometimes seen with vascular dementia or dementia with Lewy bodies. You might hear this called mixed dementia.
The symptoms of dementia vary depending on the disease, or diseases, causing it. You can read more about the symptoms associated with different types of dementia on the Alzheimers Society website .
Don’t Miss: Is Senility The Same As Dementia
What Do Elderly People Think About Life And Death
As we get older, death seems to be nearer than when we are younger. In as much as anyone can die regardless of age, for an older person, it seems like it is more likely to happen, especially when dealing with different health conditions that the body does not handle as it used to in the younger years.
For older persons, death does not always spell sorrow and terror, as is the case with younger people. Many of the older people are contented with what the short-term future has for them. You may think that people may get anxious as they become older, but this is not the case. Older people do not have much sadness and anxiety, especially related to death. They are actually more positive about life and death.
As we grow older, our perspective shifts. This is when you realize that things are not as they always seem. Most people fear death because they feel that they will lose the things that they have been working so hard to get over the years. However, for older people, this attachment to things acquired is not really pronounced. This is how some of the fear of death actually melts away.
When you look around you and you realize that there are things that are a part of you that will outlive you actually help in a major way. This could be the legacy we have in children or gardens planted. There are yet others who place value on their country, their religion, or families that live on even after they are gone.
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.
Recommended Reading: Alzheimer Vs Dementia Vs Senility
Dementia Stages Before Death
At diagnosis, most people are in either the early- or mid-stage of dementia. People with early stage dementia may be a bit forgetful, but they can still function in everyday life. They live independently many still work.
In mid-stage dementia, memory and thinking problems become more obvious. Other people notice that the affected individual is no longer operating at peak capacity. Symptoms become more pronounced as this stage progresses. Affected individuals may forget that they just ate. They may wander or get lost while walking a once-familiar route. Their sleep habits may change. Its not uncommon for people with mid-stage dementia to sleep during the day and be up most of the night.
Eventually, dementia progresses to the point where individuals can no longer control bowel and bladder function. This loss of control is directly Related to the damage occurring in the brain the cells that normally control these functions die. And as more and more cells die, symptoms worsen. In late-stage , individuals may lose the ability to walk and speak. Self-feeding becomes impossible, and as the disease progresses, many people have a hard time swallowing food or drink.
Gene Wilder’s Death: How Do People Die From Alzheimer’s
29 August 16
Legendary comedic actor Gene Wilder has died at age 83 from complications of Alzheimer’s disease, his family announced today. But what exactly does it mean to die from Alzheimer’s?
Although Alzheimer’s disease shortens people’s life spans, it is usually not the direct cause of a person’s death, according to the Alzheimer’s Society, a charity in the United Kingdom for people with dementia. Rather, people die from complications from the illness, such as infections or blood clots.
Alzheimer’s is a progressive brain disease in which abnormal protein deposits build up in the brain, causing brain cells to die. The illness is best known for causing memory loss, but it also has other debilitating effects on the body, and can affect people’s ability to move and eat by themselves. There is no cure for the illness.
Alzheimer’s patients may have difficulty swallowing, and they may inhale food, which can result in aspiration pneumonia, Dr. Marc L. Gordon, chief of neurology at Zucker Hillside Hospital in Queens, New York, who was not involved in Wilder’s care, told Live Science in a 2014 interview. Pneumonia is listed as the cause of death in as many as two-thirds of deaths of patients with dementia, according to the Alzheimer’s Society.
Alzheimer’s patients may also become bedridden, which can increase their risk of fatal blood clots, Gordon said.
Editor’s note: Portions of this article were previously published on LiveScience.
You May Like: Vascular Cognitive Impairment Life Expectancy