Dementia is a term used to describe the persistent or chronic decline in one’s mental processes and this include personality changes, impaired reasoning, and memory loss. The most common form is Alzheimer’s disease and it accounts for over 70 percent of all the dementia cases.
It is one of the greatest causes of death in the United States with over five million people living with the disease in the country alone. One of the age groups affected by dementia is the seniors. If you are a caregiver, it is important to know the signs of death in elderly with dementia.
Most progressive dementias and Alzheimer’s disease do not have any cure. The diseases get worse with the passage of time, but the timeline can be very different from one person to the next.
Caring for persons with the diseases can be stressful and very challenging, especially when their personality begins to change and their cognitive function starts to decline. It is possible that the individual will not even recognize the people who are closest and dearest to them.
As the disease progresses, the person needs more and more support from the caregiver and the family. If the person is elderly, the caregiver needs to know about all the signs that the patient may be dying.
You may need to put the patient on hospice so as that he or she can get the appropriate care during such moments. This offers the family and the patient spiritual, physical, and emotional care.
What do elderly people think about life and death?↓
What are the warning signs that life is nearing an end?↓
What are the early signs of dementia?↓
How to test for dementia↓
Can you die from dementia?↓
How long can a person live with dementia?↓
Treatments for dementia↓
When do dementia patients stop eating?↓
Why do dementia patients stop talking?↓
What do elderly people think about life and death?
As we get older, death seems to be nearer than when we are younger. In as much as anyone can die regardless of age, for an older person, it seems like it is more likely to happen, especially when dealing with different health conditions that the body does not handle as it used to in the younger years.
For older persons, death does not always spell sorrow and terror, as is the case with younger people. Many of the older people are contented with what the short-term future has for them. You may think that people may get anxious as they become older, but this is not the case. Older people do not have much sadness and anxiety, especially related to death. They are actually more positive about life and death.
As we grow older, our perspective shifts. This is when you realize that things are not as they always seem. Most people fear death because they feel that they will lose the things that they have been working so hard to get over the years. However, for older people, this attachment to things acquired is not really pronounced. This is how some of the fear of death actually melts away.
When you look around you and you realize that there are things that are a part of you that will outlive you actually help in a major way. This could be the legacy we have in children or gardens planted. There are yet others who place value on their country, their religion, or families that live on even after they are gone.
This is not the case with everyone. There are yet others who find late-life very calm. Yet others are disenfranchised quite bitterly. This leads to disappointment, especially related to the things that they have achieved over the years and they wish they could be given a second chance to do it all over again.
Such people face death with fear. Death is never anticipated with joy, but the certainty that the journey is almost ending may make some people better.
What are the warning signs that life is nearing an end?
When an elderly person with dementia is almost bearing their end, it can be very traumatic especially for the loved ones. It is important to have an idea of what signs one needs to expect when the end comes as this can give you some sort of comfort.
When you think of a condition such as Alzheimer’s disease, a person can live for over 10 years with it. It is possible to make the person happy over those years. Since we are not immortals, at some point life does come to an end when you have dementia and it is something that one needs to be prepared for especially if they are caregivers.
Handling the final stage of dementia is much easier, especially when you are aware of the things that you should expect. It is important to give the person the kind of care that will award him or her dignified and peaceful death.
Usually, when a person is about to reach the end, the dementia symptoms usually get worse and this can be quite upsetting. Some of the things that you may notice include:
- Limited mobility so they may have to be bed bound
- Limited speech or no speech at all
- Double incontinence
- Difficulties swallowing and eating
It is important to note that the above symptoms do not really mean that the person will just die. There are people who can have such symptoms for quite some time. You should also remember that about two-thirds of dementia patients succumb to other ailments such as pneumonia.
The fact that a person gets frail mentally and physically means that they are more prone to infections. Accidents such as falls can also happen more frequently and such a person may have to be hospitalized making them weaker.
Some of the other signs that can indicate that death is indeed close include:
⇒ Irregular breathing
⇒ Cold feet and hands
⇒ Restlessness and agitation
⇒ Drifting in and out of consciousness
Watching someone die is harrowing and painful, to say the least. However, one needs to get as much support from professionals as possible, regardless of whether they are at home or hospice. It is important to get them help so they can manage the symptoms and the pain throughout their life.
What are the early signs of dementia?
The onset of dementia is not obvious because the early signs can be vague and quite subtle. The early symptoms usually depend on the kind of dementia that one has and therefore can vary greatly from one person to the next.
Even though the signs can vary, there are some that are quite common and they include:
- Depression, apathy, and withdrawal
- Behavior and personality changes
- Reduced concentration
- Increased confusion
- Memory issues, especially when it comes to the most recent events
- Inability to handle the everyday tasks
At times, it is easy to miss to appreciate that the above symptoms could be an indication of something that is not right. Yet there are those who assume that the signs are normal and are associated with aging. It is also possible for one to develop the symptoms in a gradual manner and they may go unnoticed for quite some time.
People may not act even when they can tell that something is definitely wrong. It is important to have a checklist of all signs related to dementia and get the person the needed help when several of such signs are observed. It is important to get a more detailed assessment.
Memory loss and dementia: while it is normal to forget some things and remember later, persons with dementia tend to forget more frequently and they do not remember later.
Tasks: distractions can happen and you may forget to, say, serve one part of the family meal. For a person that has dementia, preparing the meal could be problematic and they may actually forget some of the steps that are involved.
Disorientation: dementia patients can have a hard time finding a place that is familiar and can even feel confused regarding their surroundings. It is possible that they will think that they are actually living in their past life.
Language issues: sometimes we get lost for words. However, a person who has dementia tends to forget even the simplest words and may even substitute with words that are not appropriate and this makes it harder for them to be understood. They may not understand others well either.
Abstract thinking: finance management gives most people a hard time. However, a person who has dementia may have issues, knowing numbers and what exactly they mean. They may not even know what they are supposed to do with them.
Judgment: many of our daily activities require us to have good judgment. This ability can be affected by the illness and a person may not be able to make the right decisions such as wearing warm clothing when it gets cold and so on.
Spatial skills: a person with the condition may not be able to judge direction or distance as they drive.
Misplacing items: we all misplace items like keys occasionally. A person with the condition may not even know what such items are for to start with.
Behavior and personality change: everyone gets moody and sad, but with dementia patients, rapid mood swings can happen without any particular reason. It is possible for them to be withdrawn, suspicious, and even confused. Some of the patients become more outgoing and disinhibited.
Initiative: sometimes we may like something, but eventually get tired of it. With dementia patients, it is possible to lose their interest in any activities that they had enjoyed previously or they may need cues to encourage them to get involved.
How to test for dementia
There is no single test that can determine a person is suffering from dementia. The doctor can diagnose different types of dementia such as Alzheimer’s based on their medical history.
This has to be done very carefully. In addition, the doctor may conduct laboratory tests, physical examinations, and changes in the way the patient thinks.
When all things are considered carefully, a doctor can be able to determine that a person is actually suffering from dementia with certainty. Determining the type of dementia can be hard, especially due to the fact that brain changes and symptoms that are associated with the different types of dementias sometimes overlap.
It is normal for the doctor to give a diagnosis of dementia without really specifying the type. In such a case, it is important for the patient to visit a specialist in this area like a psychologist or neurologist for a more specific diagnosis.
Can you die from dementia?
Dementia is usually considered a disorder affecting memory and is associated with aging. In the initial stages, this could be true. Loss of memory is one of the earliest signs of the disease.
However, according to experts, dementia is a fatal brain failure that needs to be taken seriously like other terminal diseases that kill a patient slowly. It is not just an ailment that is associated with the elderly.
Even though the distinction is not really known in the medical field and to the general public, it is something that needs to be considered when one has to be treated at the very end stage of the condition.
It is believed that the fact that people are misinformed and misguided about dementia, the end stage treatment is usually made very aggressive.
The disease progresses quite slowly and the fact that it affects so many people means that it should be taken seriously. Dementia is a collection or a consequence of different diseases like Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, and Parkinson’s disease. In later stages, you can tell the type of dementia that is affecting a certain patient.
The patient can have eating problems, pneumonia, fever, pain, and difficulty breathing, which are all caused by the failure of the brain. In the end, dementia involves so many other parts of the body.
It is important to appreciate that the brain is the engine of our bodies. It controls everything, including metabolism, gastrointestinal tract, the lungs, and even the heart.
When systems controlled by the brain fail, the patient should get palliative care rather than aggressive treatments. You should also note that dementia does not only affect memory. It damages the brain. The brain controls everything, including the storage of memories and facts and when the cognitive functions start to decline, the body’s ability to stay well also declines and eventually shuts down.
This process is very gradual and usually happens after many years. The answer to the above question and after looking at all the facts, then we can say with confidence that yes, you can die from dementia and it should be treated as a terminal condition.
You can die from dementia based on the complications that may arise and they include respiratory diseases, circulatory system issues, falls, muscle wastage, infections, cancer, digestive system diseases, and genitourinary system diseases.
How long can a person live with dementia?
When you are diagnosed with dementia, you may live for a decade or even longer. Women tend to live longer with the condition than men while the patients that are frail tend to die faster than those who are healthy.
Treatments for dementia
When someone close to you gets a dementia diagnosis, it is normal to want to do everything in your power to help him or her get better. You need to work with the doctors who can guide you in the treatments of any symptoms that the patient may have.
There are therapies that can make life easier to deal with. Everyday habits and good nutrition can help to a great extent as they challenge the mind and prepare the body for sleep.
There are no medications that can actually cure the condition even though some can assist with the symptoms like irritability, depression, and issues with sleep.
Sometimes, the patient can be given cholinesterase inhibitors that can slow down the chemicals that are associated with judgment and memory.
Memantine can also be given to control the chemical, which we need to remember and to learn. Some of the drugs need to be combined to have the desired results in dementia patients.
Antidepressants can also be given to improving irritability and low mood. Anxiolytics and antipsychotic medications can also be given to ease restlessness, anxiety, hallucinations, delusions, agitation, and aggression.
When do dementia patients stop eating?
When a patient stops or refuses to eat, things can be very depressing for the caregiver. Drinking and eating are complex and have to do with a control center that is within the brain, which controls the muscles in the throat and neck area.
Dementia affects this part of the brain as it progresses and things like choking, coughing, grimacing as one swallows, clearing the throat, movements that are exaggerated, especially of the tongue and mouth, refusing to swallow, and spitting the food can be seen. This usually happens in the later stages of the disease.
Why do dementia patients stop talking?
There are many signs that can tell you death is near for a dementia payment. Even though you may be prepared for the end, it is never easy. The ten signs that death is near include:
- Sleeping. The patient may stop responding or may be more sleepy than usual
- Loss of interest in fluids and food
- Coolness: the patient’s legs, feet, arms, hands, ears, and nose may feel cool to touch because of the decrease in circulation
- Change in the color of the skin because of the low circulation of blood usually called mottling
- Rattling sounds within the throat and lungs
- Bowel and bladder changes
- Restlessness and disorientation
- Energy surge
- Change in breathing patterns
- Changing vital signs
Dementia is a condition that has no cure and it tends to get worse gradually. Many signs can be seen in the course of the disease. You need to be aware of all the signs that are associated with the disease so that you can care for your loved one in the best way possible. Since it is a gradual process, it needs to be understood.
Preparing for the things that may happen to a love done who has dementia can help you cope. You will need as much support as you possibly can so that you can give the best care. You can also take the loved one to the hospice where trained professional can care for the patient in the best way possible.
Kate Mallord is a health blogger. In the year 1988, She graduated from the University of Texas School of Medicine at San Antonio. Kate is an exemplary doctor. She has always devoted herself to caring for older adult patients. Read More