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What is the life expectancy of someone with Alzheimer's?

42 answers | Last updated: Aug 28, 2014
Q
Dana-1 asked...
My 80 yr old Mother has had Alzheimer's since age 69. How much longer can this last? She lived with my father until his death nearly four years ago. Since then, she has lived with me, my husband and two daughters.
 

Answers
A
Paula Spencer Scott, contributing editor, is the author of Surviving Alzheimer's. A Met Life Foundation Journalists in Aging fellow, she writes extensively about health...
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answered...

The general rule of thumb is that someone with Alzheimer's has half the life expectancy of a peer without this disease. So the average 70- year- old woman can expect to live 16 years, but a 70-year-old with Alzheimer's has an 8-year life expectancy. Of course, there's no crystal ball of certainty, which helps explain why your mother has already outlived that statistic. Life expectancy also depends on the age at diagnosis (the later in life you're diagnosed, the less time you're expected to live) and on general health condition. You can find more information here.

 

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A fellow caregiver answered...

So much depends on the person's overall health and age. My husband at the age of 77 is now at the mid moderate stage of Alzheimer's after having been offically diagnosed with vascular dementia in 2005 and has had symptoms of dementia since a stroke in 1981. He's now in a dementia care unit and getting excellent care.

 

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working mom answered...

My husband who will be 80 in May was diagnosed with dementia(loss of short term memory)almost 4 years ago. He is taking aricept & namenda. He has a bad aortic & mitral heart valves. He has 2 brothers & 2 sisters all younger with varying degrees of dementia. His mother who also had dementia lived until she was 83. Her 2 sisters whom had dementia lived into their mid 90's. Since I feel this is really a genetic dementia, my husband could live well into his 80's. His physicians feel in his present health stage, he could live well into his 90's. As long as my husband is physically able to live at home, I know how trying it can be, but no one ever promised me a "rose" garden.

 

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MargieB answered...

I'm not sure when my mom's dementia began.... a doctor told me to have her checked 3-4 years ago but a neighbor noticed it way before then. Personally, I just contributed her forgetfulness to her age of 81; we all slow down by then. She is in excellent physical condition but I notice her failing mentally more and more, month by month. She is on Namenda and Excelon and seems to be responding very well. At 85+, I actually expect her to live another 5-6 years. Only God knows how long I will have her but we take each day one at a time and enjoy those times together.

 

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dear one of Mort answered...

Life in Alzheimer's disease may be prolonged by the medical interventions permitted by their families in the interest of prolonging their lives. These interventions include feeding tubes, breathing devices, kidney dialysis, heart assist devices such as pacemakers, defibrillators and pumping assists. Once these interventions have occurred it is very difficult to terminate them because this is called pulling the plug and no one wants to do that. For my husband, we have chosen not to put a plug in in the first place and to let death occur naturally when a life terminating event occurs using comfort measures only. A Hospice can be very helpful to carry out what you know to be best. Sandy's dear one of Mort

 

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krakat1 answered...

I am not an expert by any means, but I've been living this for years. Beyond the question "how long before Alzheimer's takes his/her life" lies the other factors that may get hidden along the way. Since they can no longer communicate about any other issues that may be happening (like my chest hurts, I have a sore foot etc...). You have to be vigilant and watch behavior changes that may lead to diagnosis of other problems that may shorten their life before Alz. In my Dad's case, even tho he must have felt horrible, he always says he feels fine. He was diagnosed with pneumonia three times in the last few months. Left untreated may have been very dire for him. (We just found out that it is cancer). Another friend's Aunt with Alz had a sore foot. It ended up being a circulatory issue, left untreated could have been fatal. God Bless as you work thru these issues. This is SO hard and every case is different.

 

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dear one of Mort answered...

I have already answered once but I want to use this space as a soap box to mention how valuable a form of Hospice care could be for late stage Alzheimer's disease. As things are presently,my husband wasn't considered eligible even tho he is stage III because he still will occasionally smile and is able to ambulate a little and because his weight loss is merely 7 percent and not 10 percent. The criteria are very rigid and are mostly cancer appropriate. Imagine how useful it would be to get appropriate help by calling one telephone number. This could avoid inappropriate care and also provide a sense of continuity for families and patients who easily become frightened by change. Dear One of Mort

 

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Rosy Day answered...

My mother, 80 years of age, was diagnosed with Alzheimer's in 2006, but symptoms were present before then. She is currently in Hospice at home, and it has made a big difference and improved the quality of care I'm able to provide for her. She is considered to be in last stage and hospice was suggested by her primary. I don't always comment but I find the information here very helpful and appreciate the opportunity to share, be informed and encouraged.

 

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Hollyw answered...

My mother is 81 - she was diagnosed with Alzheimers 8 years ago - we suspect she was actually suffering from symptoms at least 3 years prior. We just didn't put 2 and 2 together. She quit her part time job - had all kinds notes and directions to places she had gone all her life. Then the inability to manage her $ (credit card problems ect ) really tipped us off. The house wasn't being cleaned, she no longer cooked. Anyway - our grandmother had been diagnosed so we weren't really shocked. My aunt - the oldest sister just died last night - she was 83 - and had Alzheimers. Unfortunately - my aunt did not have her children nearby to see the signs and step in - no fault of theirs - my aunt had always been very independent. My mom has been on Namenda for 8 years now - I am her caregiver (I am the youngest of 3 sisters) We (my husband and I) were fortunate to have a home across from ours that we moved mom into 8 years ago - she stills lives there - of course - we're there off and on all day - and she hangs out with our friends all the time - we keep her active and encourage her to do all the things that day to day life requires. On her own if she is able - getting dressed, making snacks, putting on her makeup ect. We do all meals together (she'd live on chocolate if we let her) There are some tasks she simply quit doing - dishes, and most house cleaning - and she has a wonderful 70lb. dog as a constant buddy who I basically take care of. He never leaves her side! My mom has really remained fairly level - sure - we see increased evidence of the disease from time to time but I believe keeping her active and a part of our lives has been the key from more progression. Taking her out to see shows or dinner ect. - her doctors all say her spirit is happy - which is what is so important to me - she knows she has Alzheimers - but we try to laugh about it most of the time!!! I am so lucky to have a great husband and great in-laws and great friends who include and love my mom. So who knows how long she'll be kickin it - we truly live for the moment - watch her diet, make sure she takes all her meds, exercise as much as possible and live positively!!!

 

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daug-in-law answered...

Things like stress and smoking can increase the effects the speed of the disease. We live 3 hours from my mom-in-law. Her youngest son (age 50) lives near her (she is in assisted living). He is an addict and comes to her for money (she only is given small amounts now - for the hairdresser). He bothers her with all his problems, and this agitates her (she tries to solve his problems, but doesn't have the wherewithal to follow his convuluted logic, and recognize that she cannot solve his problems). He has refused treatment that the family has offered, and continues to 'cry' to her. We know this is excelerating her condition - and we are considering a restraining order. She also only smokes when he is around or when she talks about him. (He brings her the cigarettes.)

I suspect that alcohol consumption would also speed the progress of the disease.

 

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Wanda W answered...

My 90 year old mom was officially diagnosed in 1999. She was given Aricept and later Namenda as well, and still takes both. My sisters and I truly believe they have slowed down the progression of the disease for her. She lives in an assisted living residence which specializes in care for dementia patients. They have lots of entertainment, activities, arts and crafts, etc., all day and part of the evening. That really helps to keep them as sharp as they can be. She's still pretty healthy, the only problems are high blood pressure, arthritis, and the occasional UTI. I believe she will out live all of us! By the way, she's still "going to work every day". Or at times, she's "got to get a job". You have to keep your sense of humor... My 62 year old husband has passed away, but Mom's still tickin'. Poor Mom told me that if she ever got this, to "please shoot" her because she wouldn't want to live like that. That's one reason that it's all so sad.

 

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frena answered...

i believe current statistics on this issue are that people with Alzheimer's live typically from 8 to 20 years after diagnosis. it's useful to know that alzheimer's is not truly a fatal condition in itself and that most people diagnosed with it will die of normal age-related illnesses -- heart attack, stroke, cancer. since most people are diagnosed with alzheimer's are NOT diagnosed at the beginning of their illness but only when it has advanced and become very visible to others, this probably accounts for the extreme variability of life-with-dementia statistics. in other words, numbers don't bring much clarity to the issue. that's why the various figures you hear are fairly meaningless.

 

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texlas answered...

After talking to my mothers' primary care physician and neurologist, I, like lots of other people am still confused. Moms' pc says Alzheimers is not a terminal disease. The Neurologist says, It shuts down brain function little by little and if some other disease doesn't cause her death, that alz will eventually. pc, says we need to be vigilant about uti's, and respiratory problems. These will most often not be noticed by an alz patient and so can lead to Kidney failure or pneumonia etc. My mother is 81, no one in her family had the disease, although my grandmother had vascular dementia, after suffering a stroke. She died within a year of diagnosis at 86. It would be very helpful, if The doctors who typically treat these patients could come up with a consensus.

 

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johnnyzip answered...

My mother was diagnosed at age 70, although she was showing signs of Dementia before that. She died at age 86. My brother-in-law lived for 17 years from the time of diagnosis, and died at age 82. So much depends on the general physical health of the patient. No one dies from Alzheimer's Disease. Death seems to be related to general deterioration from aging or from other health issues.

 

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MargieB answered...

A few people have mentioned urinary tract infections (UTIs). Three or four years ago, I told mom's dr. during her routine checkup that mom seemed "unusually confused these past two weeks." She immediate asked her nurse to do a urine analysis and sure enough, mom had a UTI. Dr. went on to tell me that 25-35% of the people in nursing homes do not HAVE to be there; probably just have UTIs. I wondered what one had to do with another but as time has gone on, whenever I notice mom's more-than-usual confusion, I drop off a urine sample to her drs. lab and EVERY time, it has come back UTI. Amazing to me!!! Even her Namenda and Excelon don't clear her mind but within 30-36 hours of an antibiotic, she's back to normal..... AMAZING!!! Please pass this on to whoever has elderly parents, spouses, friends, etc. I mentioned it to my sister-in-law who had a good laugh at it - "down there could cause problems up here?" Anyway, weeks later her own father was diagnosed with a UTI after his nurse noticed his horrible confusion. It is true - not sure why but ... whatever, CHECK FOR UTIs when you're loved ones become more-than-average confused.

 

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azk86314 answered...

hi! my 88 yr old mom just found out 5 mos ago she has alz.Seen then she on aricept.i don't see any differents in her.I just got her on AZ long term care.4 now she lives in her own apt.now waitting 2 get someone in 2 help her out.When she starts wandering that will be the time 2 get her into a place that can help her more keep her safe.SHE goes next tues 2 see a neruiologist.maybe he will give her something 2 help slow it down.Found out last month my mom's youngest sister have this 2.Man i hate this disease

 

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frena answered...

Hey MargieB,

great work there, girl!

the "why" part of it is that the appearance of apparent dementia can be caused by very many different issues. after all, largely all dementia looks like is memory problems and confusion which are noticeable and yet rather vague symptoms. so, yes, many many other issues cause the "appearance" of something like dementia.

and if you Mom's mind is NOT cleared by namenda and Excelen (both of which have heavy side effects, which may include impaired kidney and bladder functions, hence the UTIs) and yet IS cleared by treatment of her UTI, then maybe she didn't ever need them. why not ask her doctor whether an experimental drop-down in the use of those heavy meds might work for your mom.

there's nothing fixed in the treatment of dementia. it's all trial and error, you know. therefore, your own observations about your Mom's functioning and wellness and improvement or worsening are absolutely vital. speak up, ask questions.

the main thing standing between the average elder and death by medication is us, we caregivers. and caregivers who question are often the greatest life-savers of all. write down clearly what you've noticed and the timetable. this is very helpful to the doctor in making the best decisions for your Mom.

terrific that you noticed! now take it a step further. i've spent the last five years negotiating with the doctors of five people i care for. first, you notice (as you did). then you ask questions based on what you've just figured out. then, if you really feel your Mom may in fact be getting the wrong meds for her health and welfare, ask her doctor if a possible change might help even more.

doctors don't mind this. in fact, good doctors welcome it. and it sounds like your Mom has a very good doctor. and a very smart daughter who's asking herself the right questions. so now ask the doctor those same questions, but write down everything you've observed so you have the clinical data she needs to know.

don't be shy. what you see IS what you see. if there's a simple logic at work there in what you see, a doctor can see that too. you are the co-partner in care with your Mom's doctor because you see and remember (two things your Mom doesn't)

good luck and congratulations! your Mom is lucky to have you.

the UTI thing in elders is a manifestation of a) general immune system strength; b)the amount of fluids an elder is drinking (too few, for sure) and c) wiping from back to front instead front to back (if you know what i mean, ladies -- and i think you do...) which virtually all old ladies, as far as i can tell, no matter how many times you suggest they change it.

 

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CaterinaMaria answered...

Thank you Paula, we have wondered about this question. My MIL was diagnosed with Alzheimer 5 years ago at the age of 82; she is now at stage 6. She has lived with us since a few months after being diagnosed. At the same time, her 87 year old sister was diagnosed and since died a few months ago from AD. Her sister refused to accept that she had or take meds for AD. She was allowed to live at home only with a daytime caregiver until stage 5 when she was moved to a NH. But then another sister was 100 a few months ago and is doing well mentally.

 

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Wanda W answered...

The medications are to slow the progression of the disease, not make the person "clear". There is no drug that can do that yet.

The frequent UTI's are definitely from wiping back to front, as well as toileting "accidents" that might not be cleaned up as well as they should be. As far as Alzheimer's not being the proper diagnosis, or she might be getting the wrong meds, is probably not the case. The same thing has always happened with my mom. When people have diseases like this, it's common for an illness to make them appear to be worse. My husband had Myasthenia Gravis, and whenever he got the flu, for example, the Myasthenia Gravis symptoms would be worse. In fact, that's how he passed away. He had the flu, and the Myasthenia Gravis got so bad, his heart and lungs couldn't work.

I learned at a support group meeting with a person from the Alzheimer's Assoc. that the reason the disease seems different with each patient, is that it depends what part of the brain has died from it.

And I do believe you can die from Alzheimer's. For example, if your loved one forgets how to eat and swallow, which does happen, and stops eating, unless you put a feeding tube in them, they're going to die. My mom occasionally doesn't know what to do with the food that is put in front of her.

 

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daug-in-law answered...

I too believe you can die of Alzheimers (complications of Alzheimers). I also was under the impression that a fair number of Alzheimer's patients die from pneumonia because of any or all of the following:

(a) they don't complain about their symptoms, and others around them don't realize they are so sick, until it is too late. (b) when the pneumonia gets so bad, they are totally bedridden, which exacerbates the ability to cough up the phlegm and (c) they are unable to eat or swallow when sick with pneumonia, (poor nourishment, and limited fluid intake). (d) their autonomic response to cough up the phlegm is inhibited by the disease and they drown. (e) their autonomic response to breathe is inhibited by the disease.

(I am not a medical professional, but 5 members of my spouse's family with Alzheimers have ultimately died of pneumonia. Would they have gotten the pneumonia if they didn't have Alzheimers, would it have gotten so bad if they didn't have Alzheimers? So did they perhaps die of Alzheimers?)

Thank you to those who have raised the UTI issue... I think this is quite prevalent, some of the meds may cause diarrhea and this leads to accidents and incomplete cleaning in a timely manner. Family caregivers must be alert to frequent trips to the bathroom.

 

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An anonymous caregiver answered...

You have to understand the stages. My Grandmother was diagnoised with alzheimers at age 55 and she died due to a secondary cause of the disease at the age of 84 on July 19th. What actually took her from us was she kept forgetting to breathe when she slept. This caused a problem only because she was living in a specialty nursing home and the would wake her up when she did this. This cause a feud between my family vs. the nursing home. It took us one week to convince the nursing home we were all together on this issue. It was best for her to let her go and pass in her sleep. But understanding the disease and the process and everything you can about this dreaded disease helps you know what stage your loved one is in. There is only 4 stages and each has a mild, medium and severe level to that. From my understanding of this whole process it usually isn't the disease itself that kills the person with it but secondary causes. Most patients with it don't live as long as my grams did. The average is about 20/25 years as a general rule.

 

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frena answered...

no, no, Wanda, of course nothing fixes alzheimer's -- yet, at least. i was using the same term Margie used to describe her Mom's mental clarity after being treated for a UTI. she talked of her mother's mind being "clear," when she had been successfully treated for a UTI, whereas her mother's mind was not not "clear" when taking her namenda. i think "clear" is probably both accurate and appropriate for what she observed, don't you think so? as you know, Wanda, alzheimer's "clarity" is not so changeable as that. once into Alzheimer's, clarity is probably only seen again just before death, if even then. take a look at the Duke University School of Medicine studies on feeding tubes. their researchers found that there is little credibility for even an extension of life on the use of feeding tubes in elders and, by gosh, they're uncomfortable enough that even elders with dementia know it. hence the tying down and binding of the hands of elders with a feeding tube. there's a lot of false assumptions about feeding tubes -- one, that they even "feed"; two, that most people would even want one and three, that they would not actually be a sort of medical torture for helpless old people whose families are unable to acknowledge that death is approaching, inevitable and, by gosh, entirely normal for all human beings. so let's see now,mm, what i would rather have -- a death comforted and natural through hospice, except for the pain relief (not natural, but oh so welcome for me, thank-you all) or maybe i'd like to be tied down in my bed, with my hands bound so i couldn't move them, unable to speak because of the plastic tubing ferrying food chemicals into my body. i'll send a free copy of my latest book "Alzheimer's 911" to the first person who guesses which death-style i prefer for myself, my grandma, my grandpa, my mom, my pops and my dog.

 

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MargieB answered...

I apologized if I led anyone to believe that Namenda or Excelon could "fix" Alzheimers or "clear" the sufferer's mind; they certainly do not. I pray for a drug or procedure that will bring our loved ones back to us but to date, it hasn't surfaced.
But when mom has a UTI, she is downright goofy.. does really silly things and is far more forgetful. That's my signal and as I stated before, over the years EVERY time I have dropped off a urine sample to the lab, it has come back positive.
When I mentioned that after antibiotics she returned to normal, I only meant normal for one with Alzheimer's. Her mind is unclear all the time but worse during a UTI. I believe her UTI's are the result of not drinking enough water. I found an article on the computer stating what happens to our bodies when we become dehydrated; VERY interesting!!!!! PS -- Frena & Wanda, thank you for your lengthy but thorough and detailed responses; they were VERY helpful to ME.

 

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The Caregiver's Voice answered...

I had not heard the life-expectancy the way Paula put it--a person with Alzheimer's is expected to live half the average person of that age.

From my informal non-scientific observations, those diagnosed younger can live the longest--20 years. If it's vascular dementia, it appears whatever the age, people live a short period of time (within 5 years).

My personal experience--my father was diagnosed at age 86 in 1996. However, he had been forgetful of names for many years--heck, during my childhood. But after my mother died in 1993 (when my father was 83), he started showing signs of early dementia. The way he was headed, had we not moved him from his WI home to our CA home, he may have died a year after diagnosis. However, with tender loving care and lots of attention, he made it another 5 and died in 2001. He would have been 101 this year.

 

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An anonymous caregiver answered...

Hi I'm a Neurologist I have specialized treating Alzheimer's dementia patients for 20 year. The basic rule of tum is in medicine. One size does not fit all. It depends on lots of things, over all health, in home care increases life expectancy, symptoms can be mildly reduced and the progression slowed. But there is no cure. In my clinic I am treating a 80 year old woman that was diagnoses 7 years ago. She was actually doing worst 4 years ago than she was a year ago. Symptomatically I diagnosed her at the advanced stage 2 years ago, If one symptom got better, then 2 got worst, or 5 things showed up that would normally have her diagnosed end stage in a office visit at 8am. Then at 3 in the after noon she would walk up stairs and so forth and so on. It varies it depends on may thing - mainly the persons over all health, care being provided. So average age of death statistics over as overall period. My focus on certain things, the people who conduct these studies may loose contact with there study partner, or the level of care being provided is poor. That's whats they look at. A average person receiving the same treat meant - nursing homes, up to 20 pills a day with no evidence base - there going to lead the statistics. I don't personally believe in death dates. I do know that many physicians provide minimal to sloppy care in a actually effort to end the patients life. Some are deliberate, some not. Some Doctors have there televisions teevod to Dar Phil Opera,,,,,now would you trust Dr Phil's weight loss age rejuvenating program??? well... In my practice. I educate care givers. And work with the patient closely. That's me. I have a specialty dementia ALZ. Well all I can say is to keep them at home get a competent Neurologist you feel comfortable with. Give them good food keep them active set rest periods, always talk to your Doctor, don't just take a medication or any thing you feel uncomfortable with = always question your Physician and insist that they not rush thew the visit. It your right,

Live well live strong and good luck to every one...

 

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An anonymous caregiver answered...

My Mother will be 83 this year and also has had Alzheimers since she was about 69. She is in a nursing home under 24 hour care. So this is going on 14 years. The thing is she is generally physically healthy and alert just totally not cognizant of anything or anyone. Although I am happy at times that I still can see her face & touch her hand, I do not feel this is a life for anyone to be living so death at this point would be a blessing. This sounds like a harsh statement but the pain of watching this disease swallow her up is more than I can bear anymore. This is a dreadful memory that I have to have of her. All the meds in the world do nothing.

 

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JWC answered...

It's so difficult to pinpoint a specific timetable as a lot depends on the overall health of the individual outside of also having Alzheimer's. My mom was officially diagnosed with Alzheimer's dementia 4 1/2 years when she was 85 1/2, but hindsight being 20/20, I could see it probably started around age 80. She sadly passed away last month with end-stage dementia and was in a hospice facility setting for 2 weeks. Like someone earlier said, anyone with this disease is going to have their lifespan cut short.

 

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MargieB answered...

My mom is 87 in May... and other than Dementia, she is in GREAT health... She broke her hip 3 years ago and several people said this is the beginning of the end but amazingly, she came through it fantastically... Other than limping, she's doing wonderfully.... so I look for her to live many more years...

 

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JWC answered...

MargieB - I wish your mom continued good health. My mom fractured her hip when she was 85 and recovered beautifully from it. Unfortunately, over time and as expected, her dementia progressed, but I believe her overall good health, relatively speaking, sustained her until her passing last month at 89 1/2. Best of everything to both of you.

 

sad and broken answered...

Hi, anonymous caregiver/neurologist, My husband's neurologist , says there is actually nothing she can do for my husband anymore and has reduced the office visits from every 3mos. to every 6 mos., and also he is taking arceipt and namenda. as We have been going to her since 02 or 03, a long time. After a generiatic testing its valuation dicating there is not much that can be done. Just keep him comfortable, good diet,. So, I now have signed up for hospice, and that will be starting soon. But he has so many other diseases, mental, diabetic, prostate, sleep abnea, arthistis, swallowing issues, the still goes on. So, maybe hospice can help cut down on going to so many drs. for ea of his diseases. Also, monthly WBC been going on now for 20 yrs. They can do that here at home.

 

JWC answered...

To daug-in-law -- very interesting your comment about pneumonia being the cause of death in some Alzheimer's patients. When I got the call from the hospice facility that my mom had passed I was not given a cause nor did I ask, assuming it was AD. I was shocked to see the cause of death on her death certificate was pneumonia. Not once was pneumonia even discussed, although I can see how that can develop in a late stage patient. My mom's death has broken me and I am working with grief counselors. It's been 2 months and I intend to call the hospice facility to ask them about the pneumonia.

 

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daug-in-law answered...

To JWC, to what end would calling the hospice about the cause of death do? If it will give you peace to discuss it, then fine. But they have to deal with the here and now and if you are having trouble dealing with your mom's passing, you need to seek counselling. Even if the counsellor suggests calling the hospice, the counsellor will give you the tools to do this in a constructive way to help you. There is nothing further that can be done for your mom. You need to take care of yourself now, to grieve and come to terms with this. Your memory of your Mom, should be about her life, not about her death. You need support now. It is hard to transition from care-giver to care-needer, but you need to put yourself first, with the confidence that you put your mom first for many years.

Please know that I say this with the kindest concern for you. Good luck and best wishes.

 

JWC answered...

TO daug-in-law, thanks for your comment. I was just surprised to see that cause of death was pneumonia. I never saw symptoms of this or heard any kind of discussion of this prior to reading it on the death certificate. I was surprised by it. I am in counseling now.

 

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An anonymous caregiver answered...

After helping my mother through Alzheimer's I learned to live in the moment. That's all there really is . Say all you need and want to say, without wasting another day. Having cared for my mother, I know the person afflicted with this horrible disease is still there mentally to the end. No, they may not be able to remember or complete complex tasks, but the essence of their personality is there. Even after my mother lost her speech and couldn't walk, we could communicate by holding hands and hugs. Look for ways to relate. Don't abandon the person. Even helping my mother with bathing and personal hygiene was no big deal. You just do it, as you would with a child. Seek help from others with care-giving tasks. Sit close and talk with them daily. Take the person outside for walks if they're able. Make tea, watch TV together, sing to them, change their position often to reduce pressure soars. The Alzheimer's victim can hear, and wants companionship and respect up to the very end. Be there for those you love. You will never regret it! Watching my mother fade away and die was traumatic. I would have given anything to step back in time and hold her hand to feel her grasp just once again.

 

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An anonymous caregiver answered...

Alzheimer's disease is definitely fatal, if the sufferer isn't lucky enough to die of some other cause before they get to the end stages of it. As the disease progresses, the sufferer's brain loses one function after another, including the ability to regulate electrolytes and control blood pressure. The damage is profound and if the patient hangs on and survives everything else until the bitter end, their brain will completely lose the ability to command their body at all.

As an illustration, in my mother's case, she had been using a portable commode next to her bed for months and as her disease progressed, she continued to have the urge to get out of bed to use the toilet but once she stood up, she could not turn around or bend at the kneed to sit on the commode. I will never forget the way she looked standing there helpless, face blank, unable to understand or follow simple directions but still feeling the urge to use the toilet.

The last few months were absolutely horrifying as we watched her deteriorate in a seemingly endless string of losses. She reached the point where she could do nothing for herself, but still her body persisted and hung on, and there was nothing anyone could do to relieve the agony. Probably a lot of people do die of infections, heart attacks, strokes and other illnesses before they get to the last stage of Alzheimer's, but for those who don't, the disease process unfolding in the brain will definitely kill the person.

 

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An anonymous caregiver answered...

Alzheimer's does kill you. I know of at least one person who had Early Onset Alzheimer's Disease who has the truth on his death certificate. He died in his fifties of Alzheimer's Disease not pneumonia or anything else common to the elderly. This disease takes the life of many people who are much younger than most of the people discussed here. I am 59 and my husband is 65 he is 5 years into the disease and is at the moderately severe stage. It is very common for me to meet people who correct me when I say my husband has dementia. They always assume I mean my dad. My husband is home with me but can NEVER be left alone. I so sick of the comment "It is only memory loss not cancer" You can cure some forms of cancer. Alzheimer's has no cure and is a slow form of death. It is the long goodbye.

 

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Jenny12 answered...

I really feel for you - it is exhausting being a caregiver. Can I suggest a book that has really helped me? It's called 'The Little Girl in the Radiator' and it is the author's account of caring for his mother who got Alzheimer's after the death of her husband. It is very funny and moving and I have recommended it to so many people. When I read it it made me feel that I wasn't alone. Very best wishes.

 

100% helpful
twink12 answered...

Dear anonymous, I fully understand how you feel. My husband was diagnosed at 48 He is now 55 I'm 53. You are right about how people see this. I am not trying to undermined the feelings of the older people with dementia, my husband & I took care of our elderly parents for 5 years dad was 89, mom was 85 when they passed I still miss them dearly they lived rich full lives before dementia came to them, mom was 76, dad was 80 We still had wonderful times after there diagnosis. I guess I just wanted to let you know I understand. We are half there ages and are not sure what to expect anymore. I mourn my loss and I'm trying to find new way' s to cope. We are given no time table for this for people to undermine how you feel is just cruel. God bless

 

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50% helpful
An anonymous caregiver answered...

My mom had dementia, After my dad died, my sisters & I knew my mom couldn't live in the house by herself & we moved her into a assisted living facility. My folks were missionaries in Hong Kong (as were my grand parents), none of us 4 girls wanted to just "visit" my mom so mon - fri 8am-2pm my oldest sister (retired) took care of her (at the assisted living facility) & I can in around noon (SSDI) until she went to bed (around 6-7pm) & another sister came up for lunch almost every day. We hired a care giver on week-ends. It's not that we didn't trust the people at the facility, we just wanted to be with her as much as possible. When we were busy or needed a day off, we called the 4th sister & she would come in.

At the beginning it wasn't to bad, she knew who we were & she knew our names, we could take her out to eat, or to the zoo or just take a drive. After about 3 yrs, I was that man who always sat in that chair in the corner (I am gay, but I am not a man!), my oldest sister (Edie) was my moms sister, Dot who came at lunch was that really nice lady that comes to eat her lunch & Char was a friend that comes when she feels like it!

At first it hurt us all that she forgot who we were, Then we just began to laugh about it....what can you do? You have to have a sense of humor when it gets to that point. I was watching her sleep one day & she was saying something in Chinese, then she said the Lords prayer in English & then went back to Chinese & then English again. Another time, in her sleep, she was praying for Edie by name, then she woke up & said "oh, hello." & went back to sleep!

We asked her about a week before she passed if she wanted to just go & see Jesus & daddy....she said, "No, my house isn't ready yet." I guess it just needed a couple of more things done because she died in her sleep one week later at age 89 in 2007, with all her kids around her.

I'm the youngest & I still miss her, but I know I will see her again. They say with dementia you kinda revert back to earlier days & my mom was the most humble, kind hearted, faithful, God loving woman I ever knew & she was like that to the very end. She may not have known who we were, but knew who God was & that is how she lived, if only in her sleep.

 

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An anonymous caregiver answered...

Alzheimer's disease is a terminal illness, sometimes the patient dies from other causes like pneumonia, complications from UTI, aspiration d/t difficulty with swallowing because of the Alzheimer's disease. Medications like Aricept and Namenda work better if taken together and do slow the progression down sometimes for a short period of time and sometimes for a longer period of time depending on the person. Like they say once you have seen one case of Alzheimer's you have only seen one case. The first stage is likely to last anywhere from 2-4 years on longer the middle stage can go from 2-12 years or longer and the end stage can go from 1 or more years. Most people that enter a nursing home or memory care unit are already in beginning of the middle stage. In the first stage you can hide your symptoms from outsiders because people will blame it on age. It is more toward the middle stage that you have an increase in symptoms. You could have a change in mood and behavior, you used to be social and become isolated because you have difficulty time doing tasks and are embarrassed. Placing a person in a memory care unit is good for them when they head toward the beginning of the 2nd stage because they need a secured unit for safety however will continue to benefit from on going reminders of ADL's and continuing activities to stimulate normal living (washing dishes, setting tables etc.). Sometimes as a person progresses in their Alzheimer's places like a memory care unit become over stimulating and may cause more harm then good. Be careful of the people that have Alzheimer's with a behavioral disturbance. They are harder to redirect. I believe that everyone with a loved one that has any form of dementia or Alzheimer's should attend a training session on Alzheimer's and dementia because there is a lot to learn. UTI's increase confusion more then you know. Sometimes it is the fault of care givers for not reminding patients to drink. Remember these people have a cognitive impairment that does not allow them to tell you they are thirsty, hungry, need to use the rest room or in pain etc. we have to take it upon ourselves to really get to know the person with the disease and anticipate their needs. I worked in a facility where one min one of my residents was fine and the next min her went unresponsive and they sent him out to ER. Come to find out he had pneumonia. No warning signs, no shortness of breath, lung sounds were clear, nothing, he ended up dying the next day. This is one of the worst disease that I have ever seen and hope one day we will find a cure. Until then I will work everyday to ensure that the lives of people with this disease is carried out to the highest quality and with the sense of self worth that they deserve.

 

Windy Wan answered...

My father in law was diagnosed with dementia at the age of 55. The illness progresses so fast that he's already in stage 6 in just 4 yrs time. I'm looking for answer too, I wonder how long he can live now that he's nearing the final stage of dementia.

 

 
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