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What Are the Close-to-Death Signs of Dementia?

October 26, 2023

Dementia is a challenging cognitive condition that impacts the lives and memories of over 55 million individuals worldwide, with nearly 10 million new cases discovered each year. 

While not a cause of death itself, dementia unfortunately leads to cognitive and behavioral decline that can speed up the end of life for affected individuals. This is a difficult but important topic to understand as your loved one continues to age and progress in their symptoms.

In order to better understand this life-limiting condition and how it can lead to death in dementia patients, our latest blog will cover the stages of dementia and signs that an individual’s is getting worse.

What Are Signs that Dementia Is Getting Worse?

When dementia is progressing, you can tell by noticing the increasing decline in someone’s cognitive and functional abilities. Generally, their memory loss will become more pronounced, their communication abilities will suffer more, and their decision-making capabilities might begin to decline as well, leading to more disorientation, incoherent conversations, and poor judgment. These signs seen together often indicate the need for more comprehensive care for an individual, such as transitioning into a specialized facility for memory care.

What Causes Dementia Patients to Suddenly Get Worse?

In many cases, dementia patients can experience a sudden decline in their health and overall condition. This can happen for a variety of reasons—the most common one being an underlying medical condition such as an infection. Medication side effects can also temporarily negatively exacerbate a patient’s condition. Changes in an individual’s routine, surroundings, or caregiving staff can, too, be upsetting and disorienting. Finally, conditions like dehydration and malnutrition that negatively impact anyone are especially hard on dementia patients and can lead to a sudden-seeming decline in their cognitive abilities or emotional state.

What Does Stage 7 Dementia Look Like?

Late-stage dementia, also known as stage 7 dementia, is a severe and near-the-end stage of the condition. Dementia is progressive, and stage 7 is marked by the most advanced level of it. Stage 7 dementia generally looks like a dementia patient with profound cognitive decline and memory impairment who struggles immensely with communication and is almost completely reliant on others for their care. They also often struggle with immobility, incontinence, and increased vulnerability to infections. 

What Are the Signs of End-stage Dementia?

End-stage dementia is characterized by a significant cognitive and functional decline in those affected. Individuals will begin to experience more severe memory loss, such as failing to recognize even their close family members and friends. Some end-stage dementia signs to look out for include:

  • Decline in communication abilities. 
  • Personality and behavior changes.
  • Decline in motor skills.
  • Wandering and general disorientation.
  • Loss of independence and almost total reliance on others for assistance with ADLs.

What Is the Most Common Cause of Death in Dementia Patients?

The most common cause of death in dementia patients is, again, not the dementia itself but complications that arise due to the progressive decline in cognitive and physical ability. Dementia often progresses in individuals to the point where they are completely incapable of their own decision-making and care. Here are the most common causes of death in dementia patients: 

  • Pneumonia. Dementia patients have an increased risk of aspiration pneumonia, which can be life-threatening.
  • Malnutrition. Dementia can lead to mobility issues, such as difficulty swallowing, that make it physically difficult to eat. This, paired with a general cognitive decline and forgetfulness around eating and drinking, can become a serious health risk for dementia patients.
  • Infections. Those with dementia are also more prone to infections and other complications due to an impaired immune system, which can sometimes become fatal. 

How Story Cottage Can Help

We are here for you even in the hardest of times. Learn more about our radical approach to memory care and why it may be right for your loved one today. With the lowest patient-to-caregiver ratio in the Carmel and Indianapolis regions, you’ll know you can depend on Story Cottage. Call us today to book your complimentary consultation.