Do you really need to assess life expectancy?
While we all hope for the best outcomes for our friends and family members, you have to understand, that Alzheimer’s is one-directional fatal disease, and there is so far no cure, allowing turning it back. By following all advices, you may slow it down, but you cannot stop the process in general.
Knowing the life expectancy of someone with Alzheimer's can help the family prepare for the gradually increasing amounts of care giving that eventually will be needed. Someone in the final stages of the disease, for example, requires constant hands-on care. Estimating life expectancy can help you and your family plan ahead for all the practical and financial issues you'll face.
Alzheimer’s Patients Life Expectancy
The average life expectancy for someone with Alzheimer's is 8 to 10 years after the onset of symptoms. However, individuals with Alzheimer's have been known to live up to 20 years after the first signs emerge.
The general rule of thumb is that a person diagnosed with Alzheimer's can expect to live half as along as a peer who doesn't have the disease. For example, the average 75-year-old in 2007 can expect to live another 12 years. A 75-year-old with Alzheimer's, in contrast, would be expected to live for six more years.
How long a person with Alzheimer's will live is highly dependent on the person's age at the onset of the disease as well as what medical problems the person is experiencing in addition to Alzheimer's. Those with multiple medical conditions tend to die sooner than those who have no other physical problems. Individuals with Alzheimer's disease often die of a medical complication such as pneumonia or the flu. However, Alzheimer's is fatal -- if there are no other complications, the person will die when all bodily systems fail because of the disease.
Factors of Influence
In 2004, a University of Washington study funded by the National Institute on Aging (a branch of the National Institutes of Health) identified several factors that influence life expectancy:
- Gender. Women in the study tended to live longer than men -- an average of six years after diagnosis, compared with four years for men.
- Age at diagnosis. People diagnosed with Alzheimer's in their 70s had longer survival times than those older than 85. The male-female difference shrank among those who were older when they first developed the disease. Newly diagnosed 85-year-old women in the study had a median life expectancy of 3.9 years, compared with 6 years for unaffected women of the same age. A man diagnosed with Alzheimer's at 85 had a life expectancy of 3.3 years in the study, compared with 4.7 years for a man of that age without the disease.
- Severity of symptoms. The more significant the impairment at the time of diagnosis, the shorter the probable number of years left. People over 85 who wander or have trouble walking, for example, are among those with the poorest survival rates.
- Other health problems. Survival was also poorest among those aged 85 and older who had histories of diabetes, congestive heart failure, or a past heart attack.
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