How long can you live with Alzheimer's?

10 answers | Last updated: Nov 14, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

How long can you live with Alzheimer's?

Expert Answers

Paula Spencer Scott is the author of Surviving Alzheimer's. A Met Life Foundation Journalists in Aging fellow, she writes extensively about health and caregiving; four of her family members have had dementia.

Life expectancy for those with Alzheimer's can vary greatly from person to person. One reason is that the length of each stage (early/middle/late) differs widely by individual. Other factors include one's other health conditions and age at diagnosis.

People who are diagnosed in their 70s tend to live longer than people who are diagnosed at age 85 or older. People in the early stage at diagnosis tend to live longer than people in the late stage at diagnosis. Women with Alzheimer's tend to live longer than men who have it.

Some people live 20 or more years after diagnosis, while others decline rapidly and die within a few years of being diagnosed.

Community Answers

Pdxscott answered...

I have been working as an Occupational Therapist specializing in people with dementia / Alzheimer's for 10 years.

Unfortunately there is no way to really answer this question, however, I agree with Paula Spencer, the older you are at the onset of Alzheimer's, the quicker you will pass away. It is pretty rare to live 20 years with Alzheimers but it does happen.

If you have a friend or family member get this diagnosis, don't give up! There is no proof to this, but I have all of my patients do these things everyday and they seem to do pretty well: 1) Take 2 grams of fish oil every day 2) Walk for at least 30 minutes everyday 3) Regularly interact converse w/ people 4) Do brain exercises / challenges 5) Allow people to be as independent as possible

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Lillill answered...

My mother has almost quit eating or drinking. How long can a person live without food or drink? She drinks about 4 ounces a day. She is becoming angry over people insisting she eat. She acts as if all food tastes terrible. I think she has lost her sense of taste.

Jeanette cook answered...

my husband will not clean up till he knows he has to go to the DR> what can i do about this

A fellow caregiver answered...

My mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's in 1997 after showing signs for a year or more. Her decline has been gradual, and she has been reasonably independent, living in assisted care. About 5 weeks ago, she suddenly and dramatically showed signs of stage 7. She is declining rapidly since then. She was 95 last May. Everything I've read seems to indicate individual time lines.

M-mman answered...

The biggest problem to answering this question is determining when the 'Alzheimer's' disease actually started. There is not yet a good test to determine exactly when the disease began. Sometimes it is not even recognized until the brain danage has well progressed and the symptoms are signifigant and undeniable. If you are halfway through a disease process when it is first recognized then asking how long you last after diagnosis becomes rather meaningless.

Saying that people who are diagnoised after age 85 die sooner than people who are diagnoised at a younger age is also of little value because any time you have two people with the same disease and one is in their 50s and one is in their 80s it is almost automatic that the older person would die first.

It IS IMPORTANT to understand that dementia is a terminal diagnosis! Alzheimer's disease is 100% fatal, there are no surviviors! So the question about how long somebody might live factors mostly into planning for the future. How long will family member have to provide (endure?) caregiving? The family needs to calculate how long are they going to have to pay for profesional care. Is there enough money available for this? How are any assets going to be managed to be able to provide care and STILL have a life after the AD person is gone?

As for PDXscott and others who describe how to 'live better and longer' with Alzheimer's disease please carefully consider your advice. I have a 62 y/o wife currently in the moderate stage. (Sx came on at 55) I am 54 y/o and really DO NOT want my wife to live another 10 years! Her fate is sealed. My job is to try to survive in such a manner that I can re-establish my life after it is all over.

Nobody has ever survived AD. The only survivors are the caregivers, protect yourself, dont let dementia take two victims.

A fellow caregiver answered...

m-mman voiced some facts that are usually unspoken. Unspoken because they appear to be harsh or heartless. I commend your candor and courage for stating some difficult views. And, just because you don't want her to "survive" another 10 years, deteriorating, does not in any way mean you don't love her.

M-mman answered...

As an FYI to readers of this question, my wife has now died. The story can be found below. It shows how unpredictable the Alzheimer's disease caregiver experience can be.

In all its forms, dementia is 100% fatal. The ONLY survivors are the caregivers. Take care of yourself so that you might still have a life after the caregiving is over.

A fellow caregiver answered...

I just read your article about your family. Please accept my condolences! I admire your frankness about this horrible disease and it's uncounted tragedies. I also admire the work you are doing now.

Karenlorenzo answered...

Indeed it is saddening that one of the common cause of death among Americans (seniors and long term care recipients in particular) - which is Alzheimer's still has no cure. In this comprehensive infographics:, studies show that the cause of the disease is still unknown. No one really knows how long you are going to live when you are diagnosed with Alz.The only thing we can do is learn more about the disease so we can cope up with loved ones who are affected.