Is Dementia Fatal?

Written by Active Minds on Monday the 27th of July 2020.


For many the news that you are living with dementia is difficult to accept and comprehend, one of the first thoughts may be around the mortality associated with dementia. Whilst it is a difficult subject to approach, it is one which many of those who have recently received the news that they are living with dementia will likely want to know. Sometimes answering the difficult questions can help put their mind at ease and help people accept their circumstances and better learn how they can live a full life with dementia.

Can You Die from Dementia?

This isn’t a simple yes or no, as, with many things related to dementia, the answer is more complex than that. It is also important to know that every person’s journey with dementia is different. From different forms of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s or Lewy bodies, to how the journey progresses, to the symptoms they experience, every person is unique.

Is Dementia Terminal?

Dementia is a terminal condition, however in many cases it is the complications of dementia which may shorten life expectancy. Dementia affects the brain and its function by damaging the nerve cells. The most well-known outcome that this causes is memory loss. However, a brain affected by dementia will also impact other aspects of a person’s body, such as their heart and lung functions. Essentially, this means that as the dementia progresses, they may start to struggle with other related conditions.

Complications of Dementia

Those living with dementia may have impaired ability to move, leaving them bed bound so more likely to develop blood clots, or a person living with dementia may have difficulty swallowing which can lead to weight loss or dehydration. Respiratory system diseases, such a pneumonia, are a common complication for people living with dementia, as their lungs struggle to fight the infection. Similarly, circulatory system diseases, like a stroke, make up almost 40% of dementia-related complications.

So, whilst dementia itself is not fatal it is a progressive condition, it will cause a person in the latter stage of their journey to have other complications that may shorten their life expectancy. It is worth noting that in many cases dementia will be put as cause of death on the death certificate.

Knowing this information is important, and it is always advisable to be prepared for the journey your loved one is going to take. But though it may be hard, it is essential to try not to dwell on this. Enjoy the time you have with your loved one. It is also important to remember that every dementia journey is different, so whilst it is good to be prepared it is also important not to get too caught up in thinking the worst. Remember that for a lot of those on their dementia journey, they will still have plenty of time to enjoy their life as it currently is; through living life to the fullest, communicating with those in a similar position and taking part in activities which will help them manage any complications along their journey.