Can Alzheimer’s kill you? Can you die from dementia?

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Actress Dame Barbara Windsor has died at the age 83 after battling Alzheimer’s disease for several years. Her husband Scott said in a tribute: “It was not the ending that Barbara or anyone else living with this very cruel disease deserves. I will always be immensely proud of Barbara’s courage, dignity and generosity dealing with her own illness and still trying to help others by raising awareness for as long as she could.” Alzheimer’s disease is a common condition in the UK and in most cases affects older people.

What is Alzheimer’s and Dementia?

Dementia is a syndrome associated with the ongoing decline of brain function, and it can affect the memory, thinking skills and mental abilities of people with the condition.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia in the UK.

The disease most commonly affects people over the age of 65, affecting one in 14 people who are over the age of 65.

Young-onset Alzheimer’s disease can also affect people who are younger than 65, with one in 20 cases of Alzheimer’s disease diagnosed in people aged 40 to 65.

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According to the NHS, the first sign of Alzheimer’s is usually minor memory problems, which become more severe over time as the condition develops.

Further symptoms can also develop in Alzheimer’s sufferers, including:

  • Confusion, disorientation and getting lost in familiar places
  • Difficulty planning or making decisions
  • Problems with speech and language
  • Problems moving around without assistance or performing self-care tasks
  • Personality changes, such as becoming aggressive, demanding and suspicious of others
  • hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that are not there) and delusions (believing things that are untrue)
  • Low mood or anxiety

What is the outlook for Alzheimer’s disease?

Currently there isn’t a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, but there are several medications which can help to temporarily reduce symptoms of the disease.

Treatments which don’t involve medication, such as talking therapies and memory services, can also help people with their symptoms.

The NHS describes Alzheimer’s as a “life-limiting illness”, but many people can live for several years after receiving a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease.

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Many people with Alzheimer’s disease may also die from another cause.

According to Alzheimer’s Society, people in later stages of dementia who do not have another life-limiting illness may get worse slowly over several months.

The charity’s website explains people in the later stages of dementia will gradually become more frail, have more frequent falls or infections, become less mobile, sleep more or eat and talk less.

The charity adds: “For someone in the later stages of dementia, the most common immediate cause of their death is an infection such as pneumonia.

“At this point, the person is likely to be much frailer and have a weaker immune system, so is at greater risk of developing infections, which can last for a long time.”

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive neurological condition, which can cause people to have problems with swallowing.

The NHS state this can lead to aspiration, or food being inhaled into the lungs, which can cause frequent chest infections.

Alzheimer’s can also cause people to have difficulty eating, and have a reduced appetite.

Further information on Alzheimer’s disease and support can be found on the NHS website HERE. 

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