Alzheimer’s is considered to be the sixth biggest killer, and although it is rarely the direct cause of death, the disease is the underlying cause of death in a large number of people aged 65 and above. But how does Alzheimer’s cause death and is it always fatal?
Alzheimer’s disease causes death in a number of different ways. These days, with the help of modern medications, many patients are able to enjoy a much greater quality of life and live for far longer than they might have done a hundred years ago and some patients can live for many years once Alzheimer’s disease has been diagnosed. However, there is no known cure for Alzheimer’s disease and death is usually as a result of complications of the disease.
In the early stages of Alzheimer’s, patients become confused and more likely to put themselves in dangerous situations. They might wander off at night or end up in the garden in the middle of winter, both of which are scenarios that can lead to injury or fatal illnesses. Other accidents such as serious burns can also cause life threatening injuries. Alzheimer’s patients are also more susceptible to falls and accidents as their motor skills deteriorate, and older patients often end up falling and fracturing bones as a result of the disease affecting their mobility, some of which can cause further complications and, ultimately, death.
One of the most common causes of death in patient’s suffering from Alzheimer’s is infection that subsequently leads to serious illness. Alzheimer’s patients are weaker than a healthy person and therefore more susceptible to everyday infections, and because in the later stages of the illness they are often bedridden and unable to take care of themselves, it is fairly common for simple infections of the urinary tract or respiratory infections to set in and develop into life threatening illnesses.
Infections can also occur as a result of bed sores from days spent lying down in one position. For example, a staphylococcus bacterial infection can easily develop from a bed sore and once the infection takes hold in a patient with Alzheimer’s disease, it can be fatal.
How does Alzheimer’s cause death: Final Stages
Being bedridden is also more likely to lead to complications such as pneumonia. Patients with Alzheimer’s often have trouble swallowing in the final stages of the disease. This can cause food particles to be aspirated, which leads to infection and pneumonia, and because the patient is such a weakened state, they invariably succumb to the illness very quickly.
One of the characteristics of Alzheimer’s disease is the slow death of brain cells. Unfortunately the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease are very similar to those of a stroke, which is why many Alzheimer’s patients suffer from undiagnosed strokes. The same can also apply to the symptoms of brain injuries resulting from falls and knocks to the head, and in such instances, the patient can go on to suffer further strokes and complications as a result of a lack of appropriate treatment.