Do people die from dementia?

3 answers | Last updated: Oct 10, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

Do people die from dementia?

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.

Most common cause of death in individuals with advanced Alzheimer's disease and other progressive dementias is an intercurrent infection, mostly pneumonia. An intercurrent infection is almost inevitable consequence of advanced dementia because of impairment of immune function, inability to ambulate, incontinence, and aspiration. Even when one infection is cured, it very often comes back and eventually may not respond to antibiotic treatment. Since diagnosis of an infection and treatment with antibiotics may have adverse effects on patients comfort, a hospice/palliative care approach to management of infections in advanced dementia may be better than aggressive treatment.

Community Answers

Jennyb answered...

Yes, people do die from the neurodegenerative disorders that cause dementia, such as Alzheimer's disease (AD). The last time I looked for official statistics (to answer a question about the youngest age at which someone had died from AD), there were 65,965 deaths from AD in the US in 2004. (And the youngest person to die from AD that year was in the 15-24 years old age range.)

Deaths from disorders such as AD are significantly under-reported, because the source of information for these statistics (which are compiled by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics) is typically a death certificate, and a death certificate often lists the immediate cause of death (e.g., dehydration, malnutrition, bedsores, urinary tract infection, or pneumonia, all of which are commonly associated with death due to a dementia) as the primary cause, with AD sometimes given as a contributing cause, if listed at all. The Alzheimer's Association is working to change this practice, since it is very misleading.

The report, 2011 Alzheimer's Disease Facts and Figures, indicates that AD is now the sixth-leading cause of death in the U.S. (And that, of course, does not include deaths due to the other dementias.)

Twinjax82 answered...

My dad had Parkinson's with lewy bodies dementia. It's not the actual disease that does it it's the other stuff that happens because of the dementia.Like aspirating. That's what happend to dad. Aspiration pneumonia- he fell down and breathed in his spit all night long :( So yeah it was because of the diseases in a big way but not the actual disease itself. in his case.