Can You Die From Dementia And How Does It Kill You
By Ashley Brown
Updated November 08, 2019
Reviewer Lisa Cooper
Many people worry about developing dementia one day. However, experts say there are things you can do to decrease your likelihood of getting dementia by more than 30 percent. In this article, we'll cover some of the easy lifestyle changes you can make to improve your odds of staying healthy.
If you have dementia, you may be wondering what it might mean for your long-term health. Know that it's not the type of disorder that will kill you instantly, but it may make you more susceptible to contracting certain illnesses. We'll talk about that in more detail later on, and we'll share some suggestions to ease your fears and worries.
What Will Cause Death?
For many, dementia is unfathomable. It's scary to think about losing memories and the ability to function normally. If you have been diagnosed with dementia, know someone who has, or are just curious about the subject, you may wonder how a person with dementia dies.
It's possible that you could die from complications of dementia, but you're unlikely to die from the disease itself. For example, dementia could damage your brain so much over time that you lose the ability to breathe and therefore die. However, for many patients, this is not the case.
Decreasing Your Chances of Getting Dementia
Even though there are around 48 million people worldwide who suffer from dementia, you're not destined to get it. There are billions of people who don't have it and who will never get it.
Research suggests that you may be able to take steps to lessen your risk factors for getting dementia. Here's a look at what you can do to be proactive.
- Eat a healthy diet. Do your best to get the proper vitamins and nutrients in your diet. This can protect you against a litany of diseases, including dementia.
- Exercise. Even light exercise can be beneficial to your health. Take a stroll around the block or go swimming in the neighborhood pool.
- Refrain from smoking and drinking. Limiting these behaviors is a great way to stay healthy. It may prevent you from contracting respiratory illnesses, along with many other diseases, and it can also end up saving you money.
- Monitor blood pressure. You need to be sure that your blood pressure is always at a healthy level. If this is an issue for you, talk to your physician about getting on a prescription medication that works well for your body.
- Pay attention to your overall health. Don't hesitate to go to the doctor when you experience a strange pain or something that concerns you. Ignoring something won't make it go away, and a doctor can't help you when they don't know there's a problem.
- Don't miss check-ups either. When you and your family members are screened regularly, there is a better chance that any abnormalities can be found and treated early.
- Stay social. There is no reason to isolate yourself. We all need others to celebrate our joys and to get through life's struggles. Keep friends and family close to you, and talk to them whenever you are having a bad day.
Possible Causes of Death
With some diseases, you end up dying not from the disease itself, but from a complication related to the disease. This is true for dementia. Many people with dementia ultimately die from a complication of the disease. These include:
- Pneumonia: This is one of the biggest reasons why a person with dementia dies. They ultimately develop inflamed, infected lungs, which may be filled with fluid.
- Falls: Falling can be deadly for a senior citizen. Dementia can affect your balance and your ability to walk, so it's not uncommon to see people with dementia struggling to stand up.
- Choking: Some dementia patients develop a form of pneumonia where food goes down the wrong tube. During the late stages of dementia, they may have trouble swallowing.
- Suicide: During the early stages of dementia, especially in the time immediately following a diagnosis, there may be an increased risk of suicide. Know that depression is an early sign of dementia.
- Bedsores: Prolonged pressure on a certain part of your body can create sores. In late-stage dementia, patients can find it hard to move or get out of bed, leading to bedsores.
- Stroke: This is one of the leading causes of death in the U.S. In some cases, dementia can make the brain bleed, which increases the risk of stroke.
- Heart Attack: Having dementia may also increase the risk of having a heart attack. As with a stroke, the patient's heart needs to be monitored to prevent a heart attack before it happens.
- Other Infections: As mentioned before, people with dementia are more prone to infections and other diseases. Even though these infections may not be deadly for the average person, having dementia increases the risk of death.
With dementia, it's hard to tell what could kill you. The smallest fall and the most harmless infection can become deadly. As said before, dementia itself rarely kills you. Instead, it causes complications that can lead to death.
How Long Until Death?
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with a form of dementia, you may wonder how long you or they have. There is no definitive answer to this question. The prognosis of dementia will differ depending on the person. Some patients may reach the later stages of dementia within a few years. For others, it may take over a decade, sometimes longer, before they reach the final stages. Every case of dementia is unique, so there is no way to know when or how death will occur.
As technology marches on, we're learning how to treat and even cure life-threatening diseases like cancer. Dementia has become a rising threat, but there is currently no cure, no treatment, and no way to prevent it. It's still a mysterious disease with an unknown cause.
It's a bit of a catch-22 in our society. As we eradicate many diseases, we've started living longer. Nevertheless, as we age, we're more likely to get dementia. Hopefully our society will find effective treatments for this disease.
What Can I Do?
If you're suffering from dementia, you can take advantage of alternative medicines recommended by the Mayo Clinic. These include exercise and aromatherapy, where you breathe in essential oils to help you calm down and alleviate stress. These tools may help you stay stronger for longer and will offer stress relief as well.
If you are a caregiver for a dementia patient, you can join groups and message boards, such as the one on the Alzheimer's association website, to link up with other people going through similar issues. When you connect with others who understand your experience, you can get support and answers to your questions at the same time.
BetterHelp is There for Dementia Sufferers and Caretakers
Living with dementia or supporting a loved one with dementia can be a terrifying experience. If you've recently been diagnosed with dementia, you may be uncertain about your future. If you're taking care of someone with dementia, your mental health may also be at risk. In both cases, talking to a therapist can help.
In therapy, patients with dementia can get motivation to reach their goals before the disease takes over. It can also help these individuals work through their emotions about their diagnosis. For loved ones supporting someone with dementia, therapy will help them balance new demands on their time and process their emotions as well.
Seeing a therapist online can not only get you through the hard times, but it can also fit into your busy schedule. You won't have to drive anywhere, and no one will know you're seeking help if you prefer to keep that private. Consider working with a therapist from BetterHelp to navigate the challenges of dementia. Below are reviews of BetterHelp counselors, from people experiencing similar issues.
"I did not feel like a diagnosis or a potential disorder in Lee's mind. I felt like a person with a personality that needed some help in the right direction; he is very helpful and understanding."
"Pamela is in the process of helping through multiple complicated hardships in my life and I always feel very secure opening up to her and knowing she'll have the best tools for me to cope with the day to day issues I face. She talks to me like a friend and I appreciate the reassurance she gives when I'm hesitant about opening up or when I feel like I've shared too much. I came into this feeling as if I was a helpless case and Pamela has made me feel normal and validated. This experience was scary for me to step into but has only been positive since the day I started."
Now that you know more about dementia, you also know how you can mitigate your risk factors for getting dementia and how it may affect you or a loved one should either of you be diagnosed with this disease. It can be a challenging diagnosis, but support is available to you.