Some funerals at funeral homes in Adephi, MD are for people who died from dementia. Dementia is a complex neurological condition that creates more severe effects as it progresses. There are many different types of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, Lewy body dementia, and vascular dementia.
Someone who has dementia can suffer from multiple types of dementia. Because dementia involves the brain, it also affects the rest of the body and can negatively affect organs like the heart, the kidneys, and the lungs.
Dementia is characterized by memory loss in its early stages. However, as it progresses, dementia begins to affect higher brain functions that we take for granted. In the later stages of dementia, things like balance and coordination are affected, as well as sleep cycles, breathing, heart rate, and digestion.
In the final stages of dementia, people who suffer from it can no longer do what it takes to keep their bodies alive and functioning. This is because of the neurological damage that has been done and the muscle weakness that happens as a result of that.
At this stage of dementia, people are often unable to walk, communicate, maintain bowel and bladder control, feed themselves, chew, and swallow. Once those basic functions are gone, the body can’t get what it needs to survive.
What this leads to is a lack of proper nutrition and dehydration. This, in turn, can cause life-threatening health conditions like heart failure, kidney failure, and respiratory failure. Even though neurological damage is responsible for these secondary health conditions, rarely will a death certificate list dementia as the cause of death. If dementia is mentioned, it will be in the form of whatever condition led to death was a complication of dementia.
Because of this, the actual number of deaths that are caused by dementia are severely underreported.
One of the most common causes of death in dementia patients is a secondary infection. In many cases, this secondary infection is pneumonia. Although pneumonia can be treated with antibiotics in healthy people, people with dementia usually have compromised immune systems that leave them unable to fight a bacterial infection, even with the help of antibiotics.
For people with late stage dementia, the conditions listed below can cause or contribute to multiple organ failure and death:
- Cardiac arrest
- Dehydration and malnutrition
- Traumatic brain injuries and fractures from falls
- Lung infections
- Kidney failure
- Pressure ulcers
Because these conditions and their treatments can be uncomfortable and anxiety-inducing, many people who suffer from dementia and their caregivers opt for comfort care instead of treatment that might extend life for a short period of time.
This is why everyone should have an end-of-life care plan in place. None of us know if or when will develop dementia. The rates of dementia have exploded in the last 30 years. There is significant research that has been done to suggest that lifestyles and the environment (air pollution, water pollution, and soil pollution are contributors to the development of dementia) are part of the reason for the sharp increase in dementia cases.
While we may not be able to control the environment, we can control some of the lifestyle factors that may increase the chances that we will develop dementia. These include getting regular exercise, eating healthy food, getting quality sleep, and getting regular health checkups to spot and control conditions that might lead to high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease.