Is Dementia Fatal?

Written by Active Minds on Wednesday the 2nd of May 2018.

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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 disease progresses, to the symptoms they experience, every person is unique.

Dementia affects the brain and its function by damaging the nerve cells. The most well-known symptom 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.

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They 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, the disease will cause a person in the latter stage of their journey to have other complications that may lead to their death. 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. Whether that is spending time sitting together quietly, or playing dementia activities games with each other, make every second count!