Alzheimer's Disease (Continued)
Patients with Alzheimer's disease suffer progressive disability over the course of the illness. Generally, patients with Alzheimer's can live from 2 to 20 years from diagnosis; on average patients life expectancy is 8-10 years.
Early in the disease, patients may only have subtle symptoms such as changes in personality or lapses in memory. As the disease worsens, patients may experience bouts of disorientation, and may notice difficulty in performing daily tasks. In later stages of the disease, patients can no longer care for themselves, and they may become paranoid or hostile. In the last stages of the disease patients lose the ability to swallow and control bladder and bowel functions. They may no longer recognize family members and may not be able to speak.
Complications of Alzheimer's that can be fatal include loss of ability to swallow that can lead to aspiration pneumonia, and incontinence leading to urinary tract infections or sepsis (severe infection).