How Long Do People Live With Dementia? And Other Pressing Dementia Questions

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elderly man sitting on bench holding a book

How long do people live with dementia?

How long can you live with dementia?

How quickly does dementia progress?

These are a few of the questions that may come to mind when you hear that a parent, spouse, or family member has been diagnosed with dementia.

Dementia is a common memory loss disease that affects elderly adults. Yet, there’s often great uncertainty for family members and caregivers who have a loved one with dementia.

If you’re wondering about the life expectancy after a dementia diagnosis or have questions like “How fast does dementia progress?”, keep reading.

In this article, we’re providing expert information about dementia and answering some top dementia questions so you can prepare well and better enjoy time with your loved one. We’ll also share how to get professional in-home dementia care for a loved one.

What Is Dementia?

Dementia is a general term for memory loss that’s most common in elderly adults. It’s a progressive disease, meaning that symptoms start slowly and get worse over time.

Everyone will experience dementia differently, but some early signs of dementia may include:

  • Short-term memory loss
  • Trouble keeping track of personal items
  • Forgetfulness (e.g., appointments, names)
  • Disorientation in familiar places

There are also many specific forms of dementia like:

  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Lewy Body Dementia
  • Vascular Dementia
  • Frontotemporal Dementia

The two biggest challenges with dementia are that the actual cause of dementia is unknown and that there’s still no treatment or cure.

Even though there’s no treatment or cure for dementia, knowing more about dementia can help you prepare for what’s to come and still enjoy quality time with your loved one.

Top Dementia Questions and Answers

The dementia diagnosis rate is growing, and experts expect it to increase over the next few decades. To help you better understand dementia and what to expect, we’ve compiled a list of questions and answers about dementia.

Here are some of the top questions about how dementia progresses, a dementia individual’s lifespan, and how to get care for someone with dementia.

How Fast Does Dementia Progress?

One of the first questions people have with a dementia diagnosis is, “How many years does dementia take to progress?”

There isn’t a standard rate of progression. Dementia progression varies from case to case and person to person. In some people, dementia may progress very slowly over 5-10+ years. In others, there may be a rapid rate of progression within a matter of months.

Though there isn’t a set progression rate, some factors seem linked to dementia progression. These contributing factors include:

  • Age
  • General health and wellness
  • Type of dementia
  • Current level of independent function

These factors also affect the length that someone with dementia will live. Let’s look at these factors in more detail and answer another common question, “How long can you survive with dementia?”

How Long Do People Live With Dementia?

Since there’s no cure or treatment for dementia, dementia is a terminal disease. People who are diagnosed with dementia will live with it for the rest of their life. However, a person’s dementia lifespan won’t necessarily be short.

Here are the four most significant factors that play a role in how long someone can survive with dementia.

  1. Age: 

The age when an individual begins to exhibit signs of dementia can determine how long they may live. Those who are younger, around 60-65, may decline more slowly and live longer. Adults nearing eighty are often more frail and vulnerable to falls, infections, and other diseases, leading to an earlier death.

  1. General health and wellbeing: 

Individuals with pre-existing health conditions like heart disease, diabetes, or blood pressure may have more severe symptoms and rapid overall decline than those who are generally healthy. Individuals with dementia (and seniors in general) can stay healthy and well by:

  • Eating healthy foods
  • Drinking water
  • Exercising regularly (e.g., walking)
  • Staying engaged socially  (e.g., seeing family or friends)
  • Doing mental health games or exercises

 The healthier an individual is, the more likely they are to increase their life expectancy after a dementia diagnosis.

  1. Type of Dementia:

Specific types of dementia can also have varying life expectancies. Here are some expert best estimates about life expectancy based on dementia type:

  • Alzheimer’s: People with Alzheimer’s live on average 8-12 years after diagnosis, with those who are fit and healthy living longer.
  • Vascular dementia: Individuals diagnosed with vascular dementia often live for four years after diagnosis.
  • Lewy body dementia (LBD): Like Alzheimer’s, someone with LBD has a life expectancy between 6-12 years from the time of diagnosis.
  • Frontotemporal dementia: This type of dementia has a life expectancy of around eight years from the time of diagnosis.

Remember, these are best estimates and aren’t concrete. Your loved one’s physician and other health specialists can provide a more accurate understanding of your loved one’s condition and progression rate.

  1. Level of independent function: 

People with dementia who have a higher functional ability tend to experience longer life. The level of function isn’t simply brain function and memory but also an individual’s desire and opportunity to perform tasks themselves. 

Over time, an individual with dementia may lose the ability to do specific tasks on their own. Until that point, however, it’s important to keep encouraging and promoting your loved one to perform daily tasks like:

  • Dressing
  • Walking
  • Cooking
  • Feeding
  • Bathing

The longer an individual is allowed to practice independent living, the slower dementia may progress.

But there may come a time when your loved one does need help with daily tasks. When that time comes, in-home care is an excellent solution.

How Do I Get Help Caring for Someone with Dementia?

Family members and caregivers often need help caring for loved ones with dementia. 

In the early stages of dementia, caring for a family member with dementia may not be too difficult. However, care during dementia’s later stages often becomes more hands-on and demanding.

In-home care can provide trained, qualified caregivers that assist your loved one as they age with dementia. There are short-term care options like respite care or long-term options like 24-hour dementia care.

Respite care

Respite care is a great option for family caregivers looking to get help a few times a week but still want to provide some hands-on care themselves. A respite caregiver can help your loved one for a few hours. They’ll know how to assist your loved one with life tasks while offering companionship to your elderly family member. While the respite caregiver attends to your loved one, you’ll have time free from caregiving to:

  • Rest
  • Exercise
  • Handle personal responsibility
  • See other family or friends

Respite care provides valuable short-term relief for family caregivers from the stress of caregiving.

24-hour Dementia Care

If your loved one with dementia requires around-the-clock care, an in-home care agency can provide full-time care. These caregivers come in 8 or 12-hour shifts to care for your loved one. A caregiver will come during the daytime hours to help with activities of daily living and assist with other personal needs. Another caregiver will come during the nighttime hours to assist your loved one. With 24-hour dementia care, your loved one will receive care all day long.

In-home care is a valuable way to free family members from the burden of care to more fully enjoy time with their loved ones.

Your Best Dementia Care Resource

Dementia is a memory loss disease that affects elderly adults. It usually starts with minor signs and symptoms but progresses as the individual ages. Families who receive a dementia diagnosis regularly have questions like:

  • Does dementia progress quickly?
  • How fast does dementia progress?
  • How long do people live with dementia?

Unfortunately, much is still unknown about dementia. Its symptoms and progression can vary from person to person. Factors like age, type of dementia, and the person’s overall health and wellness can also play a role in a person’s dementia lifespan.

Getting help caring for a loved one with dementia provides:

  • Peace of mind to family members
  • Expert hands-on care to individuals with dementia

Stowell Associates is a premier provider of dementia support and in-home care for families in Wisconsin and the U.S. Local families in Milwaukee, Racine, Waukesha, and Kenosha can take advantage of our in-home respite care or 24-hour dementia care services. 

For family caregivers outside of Wisconsin looking for help caring for a loved one with dementia, we have a state-of-the-art virtual Care Coaching program. For $100/month, you’ll get access to an expert Care Coach. Care Coaches are master’s-level social workers experienced in dementia care. They’ll walk with you through your caregiving journey and help you provide quality care to your loved one.

Contact us today to talk with one of our Care Advisors. We’ll answer your questions and help you get the best care for your loved one.

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