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How Long Can a Person Live With Alzheimer's?

Updated April 17, 2017

After a diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease, a person lives from three to 20 years. Many factors influence how long he will live. Knowing the life expectancy of someone with Alzhemer's is valuable information for helping him and his family. Quality of life is key

Age of Diagnosis

Life expectancy with Alzheimer's depends a lot on the age of the person when it is first diagnosed, researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health have found. The older the person is at the time of diagnosis, the less time she will survive on average..

Gender

Seattle's Group Health Cooperative and University of Washington researchers have found that following a diagnosis of Alzheimer's, women tend to live longer than men, surviving about six years compared with mens' four years. But this difference between the sexes is less noteworthy as people age.

Severity of Symptoms

Other diseases and conditions shorten the life of a person with Alzheimer's. Poor survival is noted in those who have diabetes or congestive heart failure. Another health problem that lowers life expectancy is trouble walking and a history of falls.

Drs. Kenneth Covinsky and Kristine Yaffe of the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center and the University of California, San Francisco, say that someone who receives a diagnosis of Alzheimer's through specialised memory tests will likely have a longer life because these tests pick up changes in memory long before noticeable symptoms appear.

Catastophic Event

Many with Alzheimer's are able to function because they have a routine and know what to expect every day. When something happens to seriously change this, the result can be devatating to the Alzheimer's sufferer. An example: Someone falls and breaks a hip, arm or other bone requiring surgery or rehabilitation.

Surgery of any kind is difficult for a number of reasons.The person with Alzheimer's is in a strange environment, which can cause panic and uncertainty. Anaesthesia is difficult because it takes Alzheimer's patients longer to recover from its effects. Sometimes they do not recover at all.

Rehabilitation is difficult too, because people with Alzheimer's have trouble learning new things. If they suddenly cannot get up alone or have to use a walker, they may forget and further injure themselves. They may become combative because they do not understand what is going on. Often they do not remember the initial fall no matter how often you remind them of it.

Quality of Life

It is not only how long people with Alzheimer's live, but how comfortable and happy they are in daily life. Here are some questions to ask about people with Alzheimer's. Do they seem to enjoy what happens during their day? Do they smile? Can they eat without struggling? If the answers to these question are yes, their lives have some quality. The difficulty arises when they can't swallow food and must be fed via a tube, or they survive only because they are hooked up to all sorts of medical devices.

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About the Author

Susan Berg has a BS degree in Medical Technology from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and an AS degree as a Certified Occupational Therapy AssistantCOTA/L) - North Shre Community College-Massachusetts. She is as a Certified Dementia Practitioner(CDP), .Berg has written for 10 years. She authored the book, "Adorable Photographs of Our Baby", and currently writes for "Activity Director Today" and "Current Activities in Geriatric Care".