Being diagnosed with dementia is an overwhelming experience. Depending on the cause of one’s dementia, a diagnosis is often unexpected. Just like that, you need to adjust and prepare yourself for the changes ahead. Not only are individuals concerned about worsening symptoms, but also their life expectancy. Once diagnosed, what does this mean regarding your life span?
It’s important to note that dementia cases are highly unique. There are plenty of causes, biological factors, and other factors which contribute to one’s life expectancy. No two cases will be identical, which is why you need to work closely with your doctor regarding your personal situation.
I’ve Been Diagnosed with Dementia, How Long Will I Live?
This is a tough question to answer both on an emotional level and from a medical standpoint. The shortest and technically the most accurate answer is, the life expectancy of those with dementia is unpredictable. Since dementia is generally progressive in nature, those affected go through various stages.
It’s been estimated that approximately one-third of those living with dementia at any given time are within the later stages. Although dementia itself weakens one’s ability to care for themselves, another condition commonly causes death. For example, pneumonia is often fatal to those in the later stages.
This is based on the symptoms of dementia and the ways in which it affects one’s health, individuals struggle to battle infections which in some cases is fatal. Since dementia can progress for up to ten years, this is not as much of a concern during the early stages. It is, however, important to support one’s health and continue to follow a positive lifestyle.
Although a common illness can be fatal in the later stages, the cause of death in some cases is simply due to complications regarding dementia itself. If an individual was over the age of 70, general aging factors often play a key role as well.
Should I Be Aware of Any Specific Factors?
Although your loved one’s condition may have progressed, it’s important to support their health as much as possible. Being aware of possible contributing factors in the later stages can help you expand one’s life span. You may not be able to improve their condition, but you could protect them from tragic complications.
If your loved one is taking medication, this is an area that you may want to look into further. They may not need these specific drugs anymore based on their current state. Medications produce side-effects and in some cases, doses are too high. Don’t be shy to reassess your loved one’s needs with their doctor.
Immobility is also an area of concern regarding potential blood clots and infections. If your loved one can no longer walk, you can still assist them, encouraging various leg and arm movements from their chair. You can also seek the assistance of a physiotherapist, working together to create safe exercises.
Remember, your loved one may not be able to express how they feel within the later stages. They could be in pain or feel unwell, yet they do not express their symptoms, leading to potentially undiagnosed infections. If you notice that your loved one is in a state of delirium, this could be due to an infection.
It’s critical that you make an appointment with their doctor immediately in order to be safe.
Alzheimer’s Society. (March, 2015). The Later Stages of Dementia. Alzheimer’s Society UK. Retrieved from http://www.alzheimers.org.uk/site/scripts/documents_info.php?documentID=101