According to studies, people with Alzheimer’s disease (also called Alzheimer’s) typically live for anywhere between 3 and 11 years. However, some have been reported to live for 20 years or more.
A study conducted by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health identified that the chances of survival of people with Alzheimer’s depend on the age at diagnosis. The researchers found that the duration between the onset of symptoms and the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease was 2.8 years.
Every person affected with Alzheimer’s disease progresses at different rates. Symptoms worsen slowly in some people, whereas the progression to the last stage of the disease is faster in others.
How does Alzheimer's lead to death?
Alzheimer’s disease is a degenerative brain disorder in which brain cells (neurons) destruct. The condition results in a decline in memory, behavior, and mental capabilities.
It is not Alzheimer's disease that kills a person. Death typically results from an inability to carry out routine activities, such as eating, taking care while walking, visiting the bathroom and toilet. This inability to take care of oneself makes the affected person fall prey to problems, such as malnutrition, dehydration, falls, and infections (such as pneumonia), which lead to death.
Pneumonia is a common cause of death in people with Alzheimer’s disease. Problems while swallowing make ingested food particles enter the respiratory tract and the lungs instead of the esophagus. This ingested food causes pneumonia in the lungs.
What are the symptoms of the final stages of Alzheimer’s?
The final stages of Alzheimer’s impair the affected person significantly, making them unable to perform daily functions independently.
The signs and symptoms of the final stages of Alzheimer’s include:
- Being unable to walk around (wheelchair-bound)
- Difficulty speaking or expressing through words
- Needing assistance with routine activities, such as eating
- Difficulty swallowing
- Tendency to suffer from colds and infections easily
- Disturbances in sleep pattern
- Difficulty using the toilet independently
- Loss of bowel and bladder control
- Loss of awareness of surroundings
- Personality or mood changes, such as aggression, anxiety, hostility, or irritability
- Repetitive questioning
- Socially withdrawn
- Becoming verbally aggressive
What is the role of treatment in Alzheimer’s?
Currently, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s. However, treatment can slow the progression of the disease.
Apart from this, there are rehabilitative protocols that help the affected person manage their mental function and behavior and carry their daily activities with ease, such as:
- Lifestyle changes. Diet and exercises for the body and mind, such as walking, deep breathing, and meditation, can benefit the person affected with Alzheimer’s to alleviate the symptoms.
- Therapy. Visiting a counselor and therapist may help people with Alzheimer’s to cope with the mental and physical problems that interfere with their daily life. Therapy sessions can ease the life of the affected individuals and their caregivers.
- Medications. Prescription drugs, antidepressants, and antianxiety medications can help the affected person regulate their thinking, memory, and communication skills.
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Mayo Clinic. Alzheimer's stages: How the disease progresses. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/alzheimers-disease/in-depth/alzheimers-stages/art-20048448
Johns Hopkins. Life Expectancy Following Diagnosis Of Alzheimer’s Disease Depends On Age At Diagnosis. https://publichealth.jhu.edu/2002/alzheimer-age
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