Understanding Alzheimer’s and How it Affects the Body

Nate Birt

Written by Nate Birt on Wed Nov 16 2022.

If your loved one was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, you are probably searching for answers. Families are often curious about how the condition affects the body and whether you can pass away from Alzheimer’s. Understanding how this condition affects the body can help you provide high-quality care.

If your loved one was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, you are probably searching for answers. Families are often curious about how the condition affects the body and whether you can pass away from Alzheimer’s. Understanding how this condition affects the body can help you provide high-quality care. 

How does Alzheimer’s affect the body? 

Alzheimer’s disease is a medical condition mainly impacting people ages 65 and older, although Young-Onset Alzheimer’s also exists. It is a neurologic disorder that damages and ultimately kills cells in the brain and leads to cognitive difficulties. Although you can't reverse the damage to the cells, treating the symptoms it causes is possible. 

Several symptoms are associated with Alzheimer’s and become more evident as the condition progresses. These can include:

  • Short-term memory loss: Your loved one might not remember speaking to you recently or recent events they attended.

  • Trouble collecting thoughts: They may have difficulty holding a conversation or telling a story in the right order.

  • Repetitive language: Because Alzheimer’s impacts memory, your loved one might say the same things repeatedly.

  • Disorientation: They might forget their surroundings, even familiar ones.

  • Inability to work with numbers: Tasks like reviewing a bank statement or writing a check might become difficult.

  • Task confusion: Sometimes, people with Alzheimer’s forget how to do things they once enjoyed, like cooking or cleaning.

  • Personality changes: Mood swings, depression, and imagining events that haven’t occurred are common experiences for people with Alzheimer’s.

What are the possible complications of Alzheimer’s disease? 

Possible complications associated with Alzheimer’s include secondary infections. These infections might develop in patients with bedsores, who fall and injure themselves, get kidney disease, or get pneumonia or a urinary tract infection. Coupled with Alzheimer’s disease, these conditions can weaken the body to the point where it cannot function normally.  

What are the common reasons people with Alzheimer’s pass away? 

Complications from secondary infection and other health conditions can cause people with Alzheimer’s disease to pass away. In addition, advanced Alzheimer’s makes it hard for people to chew their food or drink water without the help of a caregiver or a medical device, such as a feeding tube. Malnutrition or dehydration can lead to death in Alzheimer’s patients near the end of their life. 

As Alzheimer’s advances, many families seek hospice care to ensure their loved one has the best possible care. Medical professionals understand how this disease impacts the body and can help maximize your loved one’s comfort and make sure they aren’t in pain. 

Can Alzheimer’s lead to death? 

“Can you die from Alzheimer’s?” is a common and complex question with a complicated answer. Unfortunately, there is currently no cure or treatment to reverse its effects. Yet Alzheimer’s can move slowly, with patients often living between three and 11 years after diagnosis. Some even live up to 20 years with the condition.

At the same time, Alzheimer’s can cause health to decline, leading to a person’s passing. The condition can also put significant mental and emotional stress on you and your loved one, affecting your overall well-being. As such, taking care of yourself, your loved one, and any other caregivers in this situation is important. 

How can I best support a loved one with Alzheimer’s? 

First, understand that Alzheimer’s patients are on a journey that will impact their mental and physical state. Second, recognize the opportunity you have as a caregiver to show them your love and compassion. Once diagnosed, have meaningful conversations with your loved one. This might require discussing some complicated topics, such as end-of-life care, medical directives, and your loved one’s wishes for the next chapter of their treatment. 

These conversations will help you follow your loved one’s wishes and ensure they have the best possible path for treatment and care. A written plan, appropriate medical and legal documents, and a loving and supportive community can help you make lasting memories with your loved one. 

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Nate Birt
Nate Birt

Nate Birt is the founder of Silver Maple Strategies, a consulting company that provides premium encouragement and communications solutions to help social purpose leaders make a lasting impact in harmony with their personal values. A University of Missouri journalism graduate, author and public speaker, Nate and his wife, Julie, live with their four children on a small farm in northeastern Missouri.