Was my mother's cause of death really from Alzheimer's?

3 answers | Last updated: Sep 14, 2017
A fellow caregiver asked...

A hospice doctor put my mother's cause of death as end stage dementia/Alzheimer's. This concerns me because my Mom was able to ambulate without even a walker, fed, dressed herself, even knew her social security number. She had memory problems (but recognized everyone), but was hospitalized due to weakness,weight loss. It turned out she had esophagitis and had a large esophageal hernia so was vomiting blood. She couldn't eat or drink without that problem. I can't see how her cause of death would be end stage dementia. She was still able to make decisions on her own behalf, and the doctors concurred with this.

Could this cause of death be accurate?

Expert Answers

Ladislav Volicer, M.D., Ph.D., is recognized as an international expert on advanced dementia care. He is a courtesy full professor at the School of Aging Studies, University of South Florida, Tampa, and visiting professor at the Third Medical Faculty, Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic. Twenty-five years ago, he established one of the first dementia special care units.

The way you describe your mother it is hard to believe she was considered to have end stage Alzheimer's disease. That is certainly not consistent with her ability to make decisions.

Community Answers

Ysodifficult answered...

Thanks for your input. She was not input, but I think the hospital may have simply listed her history from previous hospital reports. A resident or intern from the teaching hospital put her diagnosis down a year and a half earlier as end stage dementia because she had Sundowners syndrome and he was not familiar with it.

It now looks like I may have to retain an attorney to resolve this. I have a sister with some psychiatric problems who could cause immense legal/financial problems for the family if this cause of death remains.

Frena answered...

there is also a general medical tendency to describe people diagnosed as having alzheimer's as having died of alzheimer's -- whatever that would actually mean., the reality is that most people with alleged alzheimer's actually die of the usual things of old age (cancer, heart attacks, strokes and so on).

i'm not a doctor or a nurse. but from my experience with many elders with dementia, your mother does not even seem to qualify for "dementia" as a diagnosis. many elders without dementia suffer a temporary hospital delirium from a sort of transplant trauma. this is well-recognised by now and pewople recover from it and yet stupid medical people label it alzheimer's. yes, damn it, they should be sued. alas, in our society sometimes suing is all that stops poor medical treatment.