Is life shorter for Dementia patients versus Alzheimer's patients?

1 answer | Last updated: Sep 18, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

We were told my husband had dementia at age 60 and the illness is taking its course. I am the sole caregiver his grown children barely call let alone help.I didn't mean to get on that subject... it scared me to read the life span from one of your viewer's . I am (for today) burned out but tomorrow is another day. I pray the statement made is incorrect. I want my husband with me for as long as HE can have happy days.

Expert Answers

Ron Kauffman is a certified senior advisor (CSA), senior lifestyle radio host, syndicated newspaper columnist, and the author of Caring for a Loved One With Alzheimer's Disease. In addition, Kauffman is also the primary caregiver for his mother, who has Alzheimer's.

Dear Anonymous:

I'm sorry to hear that your husband has early onset dementia.

You didn't state what type of dementia he has, i.e. Alzheimer's or vascular etc. - Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia - but I'll give you my opinion about longevity with dementia patients.

Obviously, only the Good Lord knows for certain how many days we have on this Earth. But sadly, with early onset dementia, in most of its forms, the decline of patient's health and mental condition in particular, often tend to be more rapid than later onset dementia, such as more typical Alzheimer's cases that often don't show up at a diagnosable level until seniors are in their mid-late seventies or even later in many cases.

The fact that you've stated that you're burned out, even if just for "today," indicates to me that his level of care is demanding and will continue to escalate, and is likely to cause you more physical, mental and emotional stress and anguish.

My suggestion is to talk with your husband's geriatric neurologist to determine the steps you can take to help prolong his mental status and overall health.

It would also be a very good idea to meet with your estate (planning) attorney to discuss a longer range plan for your husband's care should it come to that. He must have a Living Will, and you'll want to have both Power of Attorney and Healthcare Surrogacy concerning your husband, especially with your comments about his grown children.

It's also a very good idea to talk with the Alzheimer's Association, even if it's not Alzheimer's specifically that has impacted you and your husband, because they can provide you with a tremendous amount of information and direction including a support group and possibly a geriatric care manager to help you establish a plan of action.

For you to best enjoy the time you have left with your husband, it's critical that you also maintain your health. So establishing a care plan for him that includes respite for you is crucial to your situation.

You and your husband share a difficult journey ahead, and I wish you well.