I Have Questions About Late Stage Alzheimers And Life Expectancy

Question

Asked by Ellie

I Have Questions About Late Stage Alzheimers And Life Expectancy

My aunt is in a nursing home due to severe dementia. She no longer walks and needs assistance with bathing, eating etc. My last visit was last Wednesday; she was in a wheelchair, very pale looking and looks like she lost weight. She kept nodding off during my visit. The nursing home will not tell me about my aunt due to "privacy rules", but this is making me crazy. Should I be preparing for the inevitable within the next few months? It is so depressing because she is no longer my aunt and is a total stranger now!

Answer

Hi, Ellie,

I'm so sorry to hear about your aunt's struggles and I know how hard it is to watch the challenges she now faces. N.C. provided some valuable information in the earlier posts. I just want to add that it's really difficult to predict when a loved one with Alzheimer's is going to die. Nancy Mace and Peter Rabins in "The 36-Hour Day" wrote, "In the final stages of a progressive dementing illness, so much of the nervous system is failing that the rest of the body is profoundly affected." Often, complications from another disease - in my mom's case, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease - eventually result in death. Mom caught a low-level pneumonia that was going around the nursing home and was hospitalized for several days. She was released by the hospital and did return to the nursing home where she seemed relatively alert and communicative for three days, but then went into a week-long decline that ended with her death. Therefore, because your aunt's physical defenses are down due to the progression of Alzheimer's, she may catch a "bug" from other residents that may result in death.

I'd encourage you to spend time with your aunt while she's still alive. I also would encourage you to be prepared for the inevitable at this point, even though you don't know if she has one month or one year to live.

Take care and keep us posted!

Dorian

Answered by Dorian Martin