Could a hypoxic episode cause dementia?

5 answers | Last updated: Nov 10, 2016
Viking asked...

A month ago, my seventy-four year old husband got a clean bill of health from the doctor. Three days later, he suffered hypoxia, the lack of oxygen to his brain. He had pneumonia which kept the oxygen from getting to his brain. He is now in a nursing home and his diagnosis is dementia. The person I am married to for 50 years is gone. I don't know this person anymore. Could the lack of oxygen caused the dementia to "blossom"? He had no symptoms of a problem before this. Is there any hope for us or will be be confined to the nursing home? Please someone give me some hope!


Expert Answers

A social worker and geriatric consultant who specializes in dementia care, Joyce Simard is based in Land O' Lakes, Florida, and in Prague. She is a well-known speaker and has written two books, one focusing on end-of-life care and the other, entitled The Magic Tape Recorder, explaining aging, memory loss, and how children can be helpers to their elders.

This is a very difficult response to your question.  Yes, a hypoxic episode can cause brain damage which is like a stroke and as you know people who have had a stroke sometimes recover.  If he does not become upset try simple word games, flash cards and perhaps pictures of your family, trips you have taken and other happy occasions.  If he likes to sing, play the old Mitch Miller sing-a-long tapes.  Above all, just love him ,  hold his hand, show your love.  The power of "loving touch" is incredible 


Community Answers

Judyjudy answered...

Make sure your husband doesn't have sleep apnea. THERE ARE DIFFERENT TESTS AVAILABLE. MY HUSBAND HAD APNEA AND SLEEP APNEA. HIS O2 WOULD BE 97 AND THE NEXT MINUTE OR SO 89 AND EVEN 79. HYPOXIA CAN ALSO CAUSE SEIZURES. YES IT DOES CAUSE DEMENTIA. OXYGEN IS VERY IMPORTANT.


Adnerb answered...

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy might help, if you have it available locally. It's a bit expensive but it's known to reverse some kinds of damage by infusing the oxygen-deprived tissues with oxygen...


Dear one of mort answered...

Yes, the decreased blood oxygen that may occur in pneumonia or COPD can cause dementia or worsen a sub clinical brain impairment that is already present. Oxygen replacement therapy must be monitored carefully to insure that oxygen saturation does not fall too low. Medicines that suppress respiration also can contribute to dementia and so may general anesthesia. Once brain cells are injured they usually do not recover but even in older people it is possible to form new brain pathways if an underlying dementia isn't also present. I find music to be very helpful with my husband's Alzheimer's dementia. Music was very important in our backgrounds, especially old songs and I find I can sometimes open things up by singing to him (even though I sound more like a wounded crow than a mockingbird. It is surely a sad thing when this happens so suddenly. Is anyone talking about some kind of cognitive therapy? It too might help to open new pathways.


Drsteenblock answered...

Most brain injuries (TBI), strokes, cerebral palsy, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, Multiple sclerosis etc are caused in part by a lack of oxygen. This lack of oxygen is most commonly due to lack of oxygen while sleeping and is the most easily misdiagnosed since doctors seem generally unaware of this very important problem. The test is simple and is often free. You get it through a local company that specializes in delivering oxygen to patients at home. They will bring the device to your house and all you have to do is put a small clamp on a finger, push a button on the tape recorder and go to sleep. In the morning you shut off the machine and remove the clamp and give it back to the respiratory company. They will test it and give your doctor a report on how well you are oxygenating. If you are not receiving enough oxygen at night you will need to breath extra oxygen at night and that company will provide it to you. The patient with dementia absolutely needs this test ASAP and generally will need to take supplemental oxygen at night. The diseased blood vessels are the next thing to treat and these can be helped by a variety of things such as antioxidants, cialis, hyperbaric oxygen and hematopoietic stem cells all of which can help help the endothelium of the brain's damaged blood vessels. The more of these treatments and the sooner the person does these treatments, the faster and more complete their recovery can be. I have treated thousands of patients and these methods do work but the caretaker has to be very aware and dedicated to getting their loved one well since many people including doctors will tell them that nothing can be done. This is just not true. See my website sites stemcellmd dot org and strokedoctor dot com for more info. David Steenblock, DO