What Life Expectancy Does An Alzheimer’s Patient Have?

Life expectancy of an Alzheimer's patient

Alzheimer’s disease is probably one of the diseases that generates the greatest fear in the general population, due to its high prevalence and the devastating effects that its progression has on those who suffer from it. Most people know that this condition causes a progressive deterioration of mental faculties, among which the best known and most prominent (although not the only one) is memory.

Likewise, there is a certain notion that in addition to these losses, Alzheimer’s increasingly affects the subject until death. In this sense, it is common for many people to wonder What life expectancy does an Alzheimer’s patient have? Answering this question is complex, but throughout this article we are going to try to offer an approximate prognosis based on the average life expectancy of a person with this disease.

What is Alzheimer’s disease?

We know Alzheimer’s disease as one of the most common neurodegenerative diseases, which still has no known cause and is increasingly prevalent, in part due to the progressive aging of the population. This disease, which generates dementia, is characterized by the appearance of a progressive and irreversible deterioration and death of neurons that populate our brain, something that in turn also generates a progressive loss of cognitive faculties.

This dementia does not appear suddenly, but begins to manifest itself in an insidious way, first affecting the temporal and parietal cortices to eventually expand to the rest of the cortex and finally also affecting the subcortical structures.

At a functional level, the most recognizable symptom in Alzheimer’s is episodic memory loss, along with the presence of anterograde amnesia or inability to retain new information.

In addition to this, speech problems also appear (initially anomia or inability to find the name of things but over time the difficulties in this sense progress until reaching aphasia), recognition/identification of faces and objects, and motor skills and sequencing. of movements, something that ends up configuring the so-called aphaso-apraxo-agnosic syndrome. Perceptual alterations (such as loss of smell) and behavioral alterations (for example wandering or loss of impulse control that can lead to certain aggression) also appear.

You may be interested:  PTSD: a Quick Guide to Its Treatment

In addition it is common for delusional ideas of harm to appear (some of which may arise from memory problems) and great attention difficulties, disinhibition or extreme meekness or emotional disturbances.

Three phases

The deterioration progress of this disease occurs throughout three phases. Initially, in the initial phase, difficulties such as anterograde amnesia begin to be seen, problems with memory and cognitive performance and in daily life, problems solving problems and making judgments, a certain withdrawal and possibly depressive symptoms such as apathy, depression or irritability. This first phase usually lasts between two and four years.

Subsequently, a second phase is reached, the duration of which can be up to five years, in which the aforementioned aphaso-apraxo-agnosic syndrome begins to appear. This syndrome is characterized, as we have said, by causing more and more problems when communicating, carrying out sequences of movements and being able to identify stimuli.

There is also spatio-temporal disorientation, now much more pronounced loss of recent memory and decreased self-awareness. Apathy and depressive symptoms appear, as well as irritability and delusions of harm (partly linked to memory loss) and even verbal or physical aggression may occur. Impulse control is much less. Problems also appear in the activities of daily living, something that makes the subject increasingly dependent and already requiring external supervision for most activities (although they are still capable of carrying out the most basic ones).

In the third and final phase of this disease, the subject is deeply deteriorated. Memory loss can even affect episodes from childhood, and it may happen that the subject suffers from an ecmnesia in which the person believes that he or she is in a moment of childhood. There is already a severe difficulty in communication (suffering from severe aphasia in which the ability to understand and express is practically non-existent) and problems moving and walking.

You may be interested:  Hemiparesis: Types, Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

It is common for there to also be disinhibition of impulses, incontinence, inability to recognize loved ones and even recognize oneself in a mirror. Restlessness and anguish are also common, as well as insomnia problems and a lack of response to pain or aversive things. The subject usually ends up bedridden and mute. In this last stage, which ends with death, the subject is totally dependent on the environment in such a way that he needs someone to carry out the basic activities of daily life and even to survive.

Life expectancy in Alzheimer’s patients

We have seen that the process of deterioration suffered by a person with Alzheimer’s occurs progressively, until reaching bed rest and eventually death. The period between the onset of symptoms and death can vary greatly from person to person, so talking about a specific life expectancy can be complex. However, the average time that occurs between one and the other, the life expectancy that Alzheimer’s patients usually have, usually ranges between eight and ten years.

Now, we must also keep in mind that this figure is only an average that we should take as an approximation: there are cases in which death has occurred much earlier or, on the contrary, people who have lived up to two decades more since the onset of symptoms. Thus, we cannot fully determine how long a person with this disease will survive.

There are many factors that can alter the vital prognosis. One of them is found in the fact that keeping the mind active and keeping the person stimulated helps to prolong the time in which it maintains its functions, something that helps slow down the progress of the disease and improve the person’s quality of life. . The lack of both physical and mental activity, on the contrary, facilitates its progression. There are also some drugs that in principle help and promote memory functioning.

You may be interested:  Does Paroxetine Make You Fat?

In addition to this, it is also relevant to have a social support network that can maintain supervision of the subject and support him (although it is also important that caregivers also have their own space for themselves), or that they can request help you need.

Another element that must be taken into account when assessing the impact of Alzheimer’s disease on life expectancy is the age of onset of the disease. It must be taken into account that although when we think of Alzheimer’s it is most common to think of an elderly person, There are also cases in which it appears early

In general, those people who suffer from early or presenile forms of Alzheimer’s, that is, they begin to experience symptoms and are diagnosed before the age of 65, tend to have a worse prognosis and the different phases of the disease usually occur at a faster rate. . On the contrary, the later the onset of the disorder, the less effect it has on reducing life expectancy.