My dad was in good health and died from Alzheimer's less than 2 years after he was diagnosed. He hallucinated everyday, was delusional, and didn't sleep. He progressed rapidly to the end stage and died very quickly. How common is this - I don't hear any stories of people progressing this quickly and it was very shocking!
I'm so sorry to hear about the quick loss of your father. I'm sure your question was answered years ago, but I wanted to chime in here as well.
Most individuals live an average of eight to ten years after diagnosis. According to the Center for Disease Control, Alzheimer’s disease is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States. Once an individual reaches the latest stage of Alzheimer’s disease the damage to the brain is pervasive. A person in this stage is totally dependent on others and most likely cannot perform most tasks without assistance. When an individual has such limitations of functioning and impaired bodily functions, other illnesses can affect them to a greater degree. For example, pneumonia is a frequent complication of dementia and can be the immediate cause of death.
Like most diseases, the way and degree that a person experiences them are hugely individual. I'm sorry that you didn't have longer with your Father, but it sounds like his symptoms came on very quickly.
How are you doing these days? I hope the past several years have helped ease your grief. That is such a huge loss.
All the best,
Sometimes when the diagnosis is early onset Alzheimer's, the time to live is usually 2 to 5 years. This is for younger people (in the 50s to 70s.) Normally for older people in the 70s or 80s, it is regular onset Alzheimer's and it may take 10 to 20 years to live.
My father-in-law has the late onset Alzheimer's and he has lived quite a long time - I think he has survived at least 8 to 10 years so far and he is at early late stage 6. Some people progress slowly due to high education level also.
Your father may have early onset Alzheimer's. The other possibility is that the diagnosis had the wrong staging. This happens as the doctor can only make educated guess. In my FIL's case, the doctor thought it was early stage in 2006 but in fact it was in mid-stage as he lied to the doctor saying he took the showers and etc.
Hope this helps,
My dad was 76 yrs. old. He completed 4 yrs. of college and went on to becoming a football coach at the high school, college, and professional level. This takes a lot of stategy and focus - in which he did so well. My dad did drink alcohol but quit 26 yrs. ago.
My dad never had any real symptoms of alzheimers until he had a big episode on a train in jan. 08. He was delusional and confused. He was started on medication immediately, but never responded. My son and myself have bipolar disorder as does two of my brothers and two of my dads brothers. I am curious if bipolar and alzheimers can be linked. Would this make a worse case of alzheimers and a fast progression? The nice thing is my dad was still at home. Hospice came in just a few days before he died. He died at home peacefully, holding my mom's hand.
MY FIL just turned 89 in late Nov. Unless your Dad was wrongfully diagnosed (it could have been other types of dementia or brain injury and etc. if the diagnose was not really accurate), the psychiatry problem may contribute to the progression. In my FIL's case, although he is slow, his antisocial/self-absorbed nature makes it harder for caregivers as he has no hobbies except the work as a professor. That leaves nothing for him to do as he has lost his skills as a professor. I think this does make him worse at some point. My FIL has MD and PhD from Europe. But it is not just the educaton. Anything that makes the brain function fully in his life helped, I think.
I know some elders do die earlier due to psychotic problems. Because of late stage and confusion, the elders died earlier because they refused to be cared for or fed.
It is good that your Dad died at home hospice without suffering too much.
The sad part for my FIL is that he has lived so long with AD that we need to consider an assisted living facility for AD this year because home care 24 hours is expensive. I think having Alzheimer's and dying in 2 years makes your Dad suffer less somehow.
We do try to give my FIL quality of life as much as possible. At times he wants to die so it is really hard to say. He tried all the AD drugs but he got side effects and stopped taking.
Alzheimer's rarely hits suddenly like you describe, though anything is possible with this disease. Is it possible that your dad had a small stroke? Mini-strokes can be a step toward vascular dementia. Alzheimer's and vascular dementia are often found together so he could even have had both diseases. Since your devastating loss, testing has become more sophisticated so they could perhaps tease things apart today that they couldn't at that time.
Your dad's having hospice care and a peaceful death is something that is worth hanging on to. Both of my parents had hospice care and I sing their praises all the time.
We never forget our parents and wouldn't want to. Your dad still lives on in you and in his own spirit.
Hello again. It sounds as if your hunch might be that the existing mental health issues, in your father's case, might have precipitated the faster progressions of alzheimers.
A related concern of mine is that the drugs associated with attending to other mental health issues might accelerate the progression of the disease, so it sounds as if we might both have a similar hunch, though I've done no reading on the topic whatsoever. I'm concerned about this, however, because an older sister of mine has been on drugs for her mental health for about 20 years. In hindsight, I think she probably always was bipolar, but it was only when she reached her late 20s that she began to take mood-assisting medications. (I also believe she suffered from an overproduction of estrogen in her system, something that differs, now that she has past her child-bearing years.)
I did want to come back on and mention that in my reading on this site, I found some discussions that linked work of a mental/professional sort with the slower progress of alzheimers. I can't seem to find those articles now, alas, or I'd send you the link. Some people were commenting that there might be an association between higher educational levels and work associated with that education and the slower progress of alzheimers. I actually don't believe that. My uncle, mentioned earlier, worked on oil derricks. He had a high school education. He was quite musical, indicating a good level of intelligence, but I find it hard to believe that education and professional life can slow the progress, given that he did manual labor and had a very slow progression of the disease (8 years between diagnosis and death).
We never stop wondering, do we, about these matters. Good wishes to you.
Hello once more. I figured out just now that my sister has been on mental health medications -- different ones -- for well over 30 years, not the 20 years I originally posted. Of the four of us daughters, she is the one who might actually be showing signs of mental health difficulties, some of which are associated with alzheimers. She is aware of this and trying to keep track of her issues, now that we know my mother's diagnosis. Just wanted to make that correction.
Hello. I'm very sorry for your loss. The suddenness does sound surprising.
I did read on one website that death can occur within 2-5 years after diagnosis. But I think it's probably very hard to say, in general, what to expect.
With your father, it is possible that the original diagnosis occurred when he was at a later stage than some. It also sounds as if the alzheimers meds might have been less effective in his case, if he was placed on meds, than they might be with other people.
My uncle was diagnosed with alzheimers when he was 90 years old. He lived till he was age 98. When my cousins moved him to a retirement home, he was around 92, and he was still getting around. He did their garden work at the home (he pulled weeds, tended to flowers, and asked for mulch, as if the gardens there were his own flower beds), and he retained his cheerful temperament until the end. So I guess the drugs helped slow the progression of the disease, in his case.
The drugs are also slowing the progression of the disease in my mother's case. She has very recently been undergoing changes, but she is much better off than she was back in May, when first diagnosed. She is on Exelon.
Was your father placed on medications?
Coping with sudden illness and death of a parent is hard. My father died of problems associated with vascular dementia. He started having serious issues in December of 92, and by February of 93, he was dead. His dementia haunts my mother, even now. It was very sudden. I do have a sense of what you might be feeling, and I know it's hard. So many questions, and such loss. It's not easy.
I hope the new year brings you joy, and peace.
Thank you so much for your reply and I'm so sorry for your loss as well. Alzheimer's is such a cruel disease. Yes, my dad was on medication the whole time. Nothing worked.
He took aricept, excelon, risperdol, seroquel, lunesta, adivan, toperol, etc. All at different times of course. Bipolar Disorder also runs on his side of the family and the doctors said he had symptoms of Bipolar too, which he never had before, so that could have just been the dementia. Anyway, just so curious as to the speed of his progression of the disease.