Is dementia a cause of death? - AgingCare.com

Is dementia a cause of death?

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I saw a related question.....so now I am wondering.


I guess that progressive and repeated damage to the brain would have to result in some physical failures (or partial failures) somewhere too. It is highly unlikely that vascular dementia would only kill brain cells in just those areas not directly involved in automatic body functions. So...


But, I wonder. Not all forms of dementia are the results of on going and continuous new damage to the brain....could it then be a cause of death at all?


We hear of people living 5, 7, even 10 years with this diagnosis. Seems like it is slower than prostate cancer if it is a cause of the ultimate death.

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On my Mom death certificate it says "advanced dementia" ". I was glad that was said as it does help with government stats, as Glad had said earlier. Even though it was head trauma that set the button to turn on dementia, it was dementia slowing down the organs.

My Dad had sundowers, on his death certificate it was "aspiration pneumonia" as the main cause, with "dementia" listed as secondary cause.

I am still knee deep in doing the family tree to see if any other older generations had the same issue. Was only able to find some very old death certificates, most mentioned heart issues on my Dad's side of the family, which made sense. Had one saying "patient was paranoid" which I bet probably was dementia.
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My Mother's cause of death was listed as 'progressive dementia' so yes, dementia eventually does cause death.
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I hope that someone whose loved one has gone through the complete progression of vascular dementia will post about their experiences!
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I understand, Katiekate. The various kinds of dementia have many things in common, but each is absolutely unique. Vascular dementia is not Alzheimer's. I think the 3-minute video is worthwhile in that it clearly links the progression of symptoms to progression of physical activity in the brain. That is something all dementia types seem to have in common.

For example, if there were a nice clear video of the disease my husband had, it would show new "Lewy bodies" showing up here and now there and again over there -- in no apparent pattern. Symptoms depend on where the bodies appear and if they damage the neurons they touch. The picture of the brain would look very different than the Alzheimer's brain, but they both progress, each in its own way, throughout the brain. The ultimate outcome is death in both of them.

I looked at a few abstracts of scholarly articles about vascular dementia. (You might want to do that too.) Here are a few things of interest:

1)"Unlike Alzheimer's Disease, which weakens the patient, causing them to succumb to bacterial infections like pneumonia, vascular dementia can be a direct cause of death due to the possibility of a fatal interruption in the brain's blood supply."
2) A study that compared progress of impairment in persons with no dementia, with Alzheimer's, and with Vascular dementia. It involved about 1,000 subjects and lasted 30 months. I think the study was in Canada. The conclusion: "Most people with VCI show readily detectable progression by 30 months. Depressive symptoms were more common and more progressive in VCI than in Alzheimer's disease, whereas clinical evidence of progressive executive dysfunction was common in both AD and VCI."
3) Another study with about 200 subjects including Dementia with Lewy Bodies, lasting a year, and conducted in 2001 came to this conclusion: "Over 1 year, DLB, VaD and AD patients had similar rates of cognitive decline overall."

Vascular dementia does progress. The picture of the brain would be very different than the AD brain in the video. But it would be similar in that something detrimental is happening in various parts of the brain as the disease progresses. The actual cause of death is different than AD or LBD, but the disease progression ends in death.

You say that "Not all forms of dementia are the results of on going and continuous new damage to the brain." What makes you think that? I think that all progressive dementia types involve ongoing and continuous new damage to the brain.
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Strictly speaking, dementia is a symptom of many diseases, not a disease by itself, and sometimes people can have more than one kind of dementia causing disease at the same time (mixed dementia). The brain damage from TIAs and vascular diseases is cumulative, tiny events can occur for years and are not noticed until the damage is great enough to cause symptoms. Because the underlying conditions can be controlled to some degree the progression does not follow set stages like Alz does but tends to jerk along with sudden declines (new episodes of brain damage), often followed by slight recovery, followed by plateaus. I think people who have VaD are more likely to die from complications of stroke, diabetes, and atherosclerosis and heart disease than from the dementia, but it is those very conditions that cause the brain damage so they are really intertwined.
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Alzheimer's can only be confirmed via autopsy.

Me personally, I'm a proponent of knowing as much as I can about my family health history. My mom refused to seek medical attention during a decade-ish-long slide of weakness, severe balance issues and cognitive/personality changes.

When mom died in her home (as a direct result of her self-neglect), I ordered an autopsy. To the tune of almost $5,000. That was shocking.

Learned the hard that in my state, autopsy is only "routine" (a.k.a. free) if someone dies under suspicious circumstances or in a university teaching hospital.

Still glad I did it, but wow.
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Alzheimer's, the most common, is only one type of more than 70 types of dementia The brain starts dying no matter the sort of dementia due to damage to the brain from TIA's, head injuries, whatever.
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I was not talking about Alzheimer's

I understand the manner of the continuous brain damage from alz.

I was talking just about dementia. Dementia from TIA or vascular. Or even now this new report showing a close relationship to blood thinners and developing dementia. None of which are ALZ.
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I agree with Glad about the death certificate. My father's certificate listed the immediate cause of death and other co-morbidities he had. I think that is an excellent practice. Try to encourage it if you can. I think hospice is responsible for reporting cause of death. Talk to them about your wishes to have it show Alzheimer's even if there happens to be another immediate cause of death.
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My mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer's 11years ago now. She is still alive now on hospice. Yes dementia is a cause of death. Make sure the death certificate says that! It helps the government to have accurate statistics for funding, Grant and research purposes. Consider donating the brain for research purposes as Jeanne did. If I were POA, I certainly would and I know mom would agree.
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