People With Dementia Have Shortened Life Expectancies...

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February 20, 2008

February 20, 2008

People with Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia live, on average, about four and a half years after their condition is diagnosed. This is based mainly on people in their 80s and 90s who have recently developed Alzheimer's. In general, people with Alzheimer's have about one-half the life expectancy, after diagnosis, than people who do not have Alzheimer's. The present findings are from a large collaborative study group in the United Kingdom. The findings appeared in the British Medical Journal.

The findings may help those who care for a loved one with Alzheimer's disease to better plan for the future. The results highlight that dementia is a chronic condition, and that people with Alzheimer's will likely need care for a number of years after their diagnosis. At the same time, the average survival time is under five years, with wide variations depending on age and physical condition at the time of diagnosis.

Researchers at the University of Cambridge followed more than 13,000 men and women, aged 65 and up, for 14 years. During that time, 438 of the study participants developed Alzheimer's disease or another form of dementia, and more than 80 percent of those with dementia died.

Overall, men with dementia did not live as long as women with the disease: 4.1 years for men, versus 4.6 years for women. And men or women in frail physical shape did not tend to live as long as their more physically robust peers. It's important to note that these numbers mainly reflect people in their 80s and 90s. Younger people who get Alzheimer's generally live longer. The rule of thumb is to assume half the life expectancy of a normal person of the same age.

How far advanced the cognitive decline was, on the other hand, did not sharply influence how long someone tended to live after being diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, according to the present study. Nor did being married, which some studies have linked with improved survival. People who lived at home tended to live slightly longer than those living in a nursing home, though the differences were not statistically significant.

The median age at death was 90 for women and 87 for men. Average survival times varied widely, however, depending on the age at diagnosis. Those who were diagnosed at a younger age, from 65 to 69, lived an average of 10.7 years after diagnsosis. Those diagnosed in their 90s, on the other hand, lived an average of 3.8 years.

People with more education tended to live slightly less long than those who were less educated. However, the difference was not significant.

A Growing Problem

While life expectancies are increasing around the globe, one side effect of the aging population is a growing incidence of Alzheimer's disease. Worldwide, more than 80 million people may suffer from dementia by the year 2040.

Knowing how long a person with dementia might survive is important for caregivers and health policymakers. People with Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia have markedly decreased life expectancies. They are two to four times more likely to die than someone of the same age who does not have dementia.

Various earlier reports have shown wide variation in expected survival after a diagnosis of dementia. President Ronald Reagan, for example, lived more than a decade with the disease. Some cases may progress very rapidly. Others may linger for decades.

Many factors come into play when estimating how long someone with Alzheimer's might survive. This study adds additional data about what caregivers might expect when preparing for a future of Alzheimer's.

By, The Alzheimer's Information Site. Reviewed by William J. Netzer, Ph.D., Fisher Center for Alzheimer's Research Foundation at The Rockefeller University.


Jing Xie, Carol Brayne, Fiona E. Matthews and the Medical Research Council Cognitive Function and Ageing Study Collaborators: "Survival Times in People With Dementia: Analysis from Population Based Cohort Study With 14 Year Follow-Up." British Medical Journal, online edition, January 11, 2008

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36 Responses to People With Dementia Have Shortened Life Expectancies

  1. rose pollock says:

    Have family member: problem: has always been mean spirited. mid. 70. now just plain mean. accusations, you took this or whatever and sold it, or just stole it. when article has not been there for 20 years.How does one get him to a Dr. for an assesment. I sometimes fear he may hurt those near him. If someone not a relative, talks to him, he appears to be perfectly normal says all the right things, but when they leave look out. While all the information I read is good, it just doesn’t help me. can you. thanyou rose

    • rose says:

      I can totally identify, but we eventually got the doctor to come to him when he had a bit of a cold and that set the ballrolling but noit far…. so far… I wonder lso why or whther the mean-spiritedness of a person has something to do with the Dementia?? Hmmm……

  2. Rosemarie Drews says:

    My husband is 82 years your old. He has had dementia for 2 years. He is not getting better, and is getting worst. I asked our Doctor for some advice and he told me not to worry, its old age. I was so upset, I know he is getting older, but I asked him about dementia. He simply did not answer me. Now I don’t know how I can handle it.

    Thank you,
    Rosemarie Drews

  3. Julian says:

    I have had a similar problem ring the surgery and ask for a social service referal to your local social services.the surgery has a legal obligation to act,the social srvices have a duty of care package for everybody and will asses your your husband according to his needs don’t delay it’s your right’s

  4. j kaur says:

    My husband is only 58 and we have been told he has presenile dementia. At the moment he seems like the same person just forgetting odd things like conversations that have taken place, invitations out, list of items to buy. Little things. He has been told not to drive which he cannot understand why has he has done nothing wrong. Worried about future

  5. Julie williams says:

    I know how you feel. I have a dad with frontal lobal dementia, he is now in a nursing home, really struggled to care for him, could not cope, terrible to see someone you care for with an ilness like that, he changed overnite, accused us of taking things, stealing his money, etc,also shoplifting, mental abuse, violence, trying to understand that it’s not him, but finding difficulty understanding what he’s going through, can anyone help me to understand, fear for the future.

    • Kristen Hensley says:

      I know how this feels too. My Father also has dementia , he is now in a nursing home only for rehab. I pray, not permantly, but after 90 days they will reevaluate his progress. He also is a severe diabetic. I have really struggled , trying to also understand, this isn’t the dad I once knew.

  6. rose says:

    Go to another doctor immediately, you cannot cope with this all alone, the doctor is just being lazy and selfish and a BAD doctor. Go to other people like Alzheimers Societies, etc and aSK for help and you will find it , do not settle, you owe it to BOTH of you!!!!

  7. Susan Stephenson says:

    I would appreciate any information or experiences you have had. I just returned from a neurologist’s appt. with my 60 year old sister. She has been diagnosed with frontal temporal dementia. My brother believes that the only solution is assisted living which we can’t afford. She is complete denial and is paranoid that most all of us, on a rotating basis, are out to get her.

  8. Angel says:

    I just attended an inservice for my employer, about dementia and alzheimers: staying safe, behaviors, activities at home and personal care. I feel so much more educated and I am thankful that there is an organization that is able to help and ease the understanding. I received phamphlets and material to take home as well, from a volunteer with the Alzheimer’s association. There is a phone number on the back of one of the phamphlets ( 1 800 272 3900 ) or a website ( ). I hope this helps!

  9. cynthia renee lewis says:

    i have a mom just diagnosis with dementia, I am shocked she is only 66 very outgoing and colorful personality. I notice changes in her personality and she wants everyone to wait on her hand and foot, she has always been very independant, she still drives and has her own home. What can I expect as this condition worsens.

  10. Kathie says:

    My husband has Primary Progressive MS with
    dementia that is getting worse by the day.
    He absesses over small things and for many years has had his cognitive skills deminished and it seems to be daily more
    severly disabling. When he had his last MRI
    in February the doctor said his MS in the
    front lobe of his brain had night changed.

  11. Kathy says:

    A close friend was having problems with memory. She had a stroke in the Spring and behaviors changed so much and very fast. Now she is in the hosp. in a psych ward and the Dr. says Severe Dementia. She was 62 today. Her husband can’t give up hope and wants her to come back home. There’s a fear of her hurting herself or someone but he’s not ready to let go. He’s hoping for a combination of meds that may help. It is just so very sad to see someone who was so upbeat and beautiful go through this. They live in another state now and pictures taken today just show empty eyes and you see the anger and she was never like this. It’s just so sad! God Bless all who have to deal with a loved one with this.

  12. Joanne Tang says:

    Hi there,

    My mother has Vascular Dementia for over one year. She has memory impairment, confused with her saying, paranoid and anxiety. she is in Resthome since September and has commented that I am her adopted child.
    OMG I don’t what to do with her.

  13. A.R says:

    My roommate is diagnosed with dementia
    I need help understanding ,this condition
    how to help him.


    My Wife, Rev Margaret was diagnosed with Vascula Dementia in May 2010 after up to 2 years of strange behaviour. 30 years of nursing, 10 years of Chiropody and many years in Bible-teaching totally wiped out. She recognised me but doesn’t know my name or her own name. She is inconsistent, thus in permanent residential care.
    I have no Care Group that I can link into to shazre expedriences and ask questions. I live in Rowley Regis, West Midlands

  15. pam myles says:

    You are not alone. My husband was diagnosed with vascular dementia when he was 59. He is now nearly 70 and it has been a long hard slog. He can’t remember what he did an hour ago but does enjoy the moment. Looking after him is hard work but I have been hugely helped by the personal budget which has allowed me to pay for buddies to keep him company for a couple of hours on four days a week. It means I can go an do myh own thing for a short time at least. Do hope it doesn’t get too heartbreaking for you – I know I have cried many years.

  16. Bobette Pestana says:

    I’m 81 years old… MENSA in the past (144 IQ) Master’s Degree. I don’t have a car and I know where I am and where I’m going; walking or taking the bus. It’s mostly little details. My son makes appointments and I have to write down the days and times. And forget words I want to use. I suggested my son took me to the local university. (where I used to be a student assistant).

  17. jake says:

    My 86 yr. old mom has advanced Dementia, I have her in a home with 24 hour care. This year she has forgotten all family members. I am trying to find any financial help for her care, but no one seems to provide any. Medicare gives none. What do people do when you run out of funds? I am blessed and can do so for now, but I am 68 and what are our options? I guess I’m angry because mom was proud,smart and she would not like what has happened to her mind. Just my two cents. jake

  18. Marlene says:

    I was at the hospital visiting my mom, she accused me of stealing all her money, said that my brother was going to punch her, and she thought we were terrible kids. I was so hurt when she said she did not love me. Sad, but not sure if it was the dementia talkig, I am looking for answers. The doc said she has dementia. Not sure!

  19. elizabeth Schwartz says:

    Jake,I am going through the same things now with my mother. She is 90 with dementia that is moving fast. medicare is sending in nurses now and paying for it. It is my understanding that if one has no funds, that’s when medicaid comes in. One thing you need to know. There is a lot of free help out there, but no one will tell you. You have to dig for the info and help and then they will assist. Keep asking until you are satisfied that you did your best.

  20. Beverly Walker says:

    My mother is in the early stage of dementia, she is 78 years old. Today’s visit was so hard for me because I can’t believe this is my mom. She won’t go to the restroom alone she wears a diaper but can walk. She says it’s the doctors orders. Today I was just crushed to see her like this. Stalks about stuff that is not happening.

  21. Joy says:

    My husband is 78 with rapid Dementia. He is in hospital being acessed. He ran away from the hospital etc. We tried to put him in the Nursing Home yesterday. He tried to wreck the door security. I cannot go and see him in case he accuses me for not taking him home. I am one of his triggers . What shoud I do? Joy

  22. Diana says:

    My mother was diagnosed one year ago, at age 78. I sold my house and moved in with mom and dad, per dad’s request, to help. I found the greatest help was talking about life when she was younger and keeping her busy with puzzles, coloring books and pictures. She would begin to have a fit and I would tell her to go to bed-and walk her in her room.

    Overnight, she has become defiant & argumentative and is complaining about everything. She wants to be waited on hand & foot & is so obnoxious. So, this evening I told her, in a very stern voice, that she was not going to disrespect her husband (my dad) or her daughter (me) any longer & told her to go to her room until she changed her attitude. She walked down the hall (with us behind her), went in her room and went to bed, while telling me I’m not a Christian.

    She hasn’t said anything else and eventually went to sleep. I am just as confused, so am trying everything I can think of. I’ve heard the roles reverse as our parents age. It’s very hard to use the ‘tough love’ approach, as I did with my kids, on my mother. Seems disrespectful, but if I allow her to act like she has started behaving, she won’t quit her ‘fit throwing.’ It worked this evening and she is asleep. I’ll keep posting as things progress. I look forward to hearing everyone’s techniques.

  23. Pam says:

    My husband a vietnam veteran, is 64 years old and suffers from ptsd and other mental issues from the war, has now been diagnosed with vascular dementia. I have watched him deteriorate rapidly in the past 6 months. He is very withdrawn and sleeps most of the day. I get glimers of the man I married. Some days not at all. Its really sad because I have taken more of a mother’s role now, he doesn’t deel safe apart from me so my day is spent sitting with him and just being there when he wakes up. Don’t really know what stage he is in, Can remeber everything from vietnam but not much from day to day. This is very sad to watch, a person slowly loses the soul and is just empty.

  24. Nilda Medina says:

    I have a 2 year old brother who was diagnosed with schizcophrenia and i think it is at the beginning stage of dementia, i will be getting him tested. But from what i read and heard i believe he does have it. He has memory loss, very agitated, talks with no meaning, leaves the house with noone knowing,and other crazy things and I know it is the easy but by the craze of God I am trying to be there for him.

  25. Alex says:

    I think my mom has the dementia. It started a couple of months back when she would repeat the same question she asked me over a span of minutes. It just seems odd as she has never done that before. Today my brother told me the same thing as what I have experienced.

    Soon after me figuring out it could be dementia, I informed my other family members about her condition and last week, she was put on a 3 course Vit B injection. I have also asked her to consistently take Vit B supplement. Hopefully this will help to slow down the progression or halt it. Wishful thinking I guess.

    She fell a few months back in the bathroom and hit her head on the floor. Not sure if this was the reason the dementia suddenly appeared. I know this is an old age thing and beside what we are trying to do now, there isn’t much else we can do. It just make me sad knowing my mom will lose her mental function soon. This happened to her father (my grandfather) but its different when its your own mom that is having this issue.

    With 80 million people having this problem, we are not alone.

  26. Randy Konigsberg says:

    We need to find,people that share the same problem, in our Neighborhoods with us.Like ride sharing, may be you could drop your loved one off at a friends place, to keep their mate with the Problem company. That will split days, so each could have free days, at least 1/2 of the time. And your Loved Ones could be handled better, and stay at home for longer. May be thru Yelp, or another Neighborhood service. Is it an Idea, that might help?

  27. Kathryn says:

    I have recently been diagnosed as having dementia. MY father died with it last year.
    I am 52 years old….my heart is broken. After crying for a month I decided to get busy living as long as I can.

  28. mslyn says:

    My mother has dementia, she\’s 77 years old. I recently moved back home from out of state, to help care for her. I am very in-experienced with what is going on with this. My mom is seeing demon spirits or seeing animals and hearing strange noises. She refuses to go back home to her apartment, so she stays with me, now she says she doesnt want to be alone in my place because those animals are gonna get her, so she walks around the town all day. She has no friends to comfort her..she has burned her bridges with them all..with her opinionated words and controlling ways. She feels someone is out to get her..they are outside the window at night..and wants me to sleep in the same bed with her, because she says they wont bother me, just her. # It is really bad!!

  29. rachel says:

    i was treated for depression for a long time..but drugs would not help.after being treated for a break down at a mental hospital and a section then sent to a hospital for dementia and 3 more sections i have been told i have got early onset….I am only in my early 50s iam trying to accept what i do and can do compared to what i could.and what iam going to be like.WILL I GET TO 60 AND STILL KNOW MY SON AT 16…HE IS 9 NOW

  30. rachel says:

    me to its so hard to find females of early 50s age group with this terrible disease to talk to.what makes it harder i have a 9 year old son.we cant even try to explain to him as he has autism

  31. Carrie says:

    @ Kathryn:

    Try and remain strong ~ live life to the fullest as that’s the best any one of us can do. In my thoughts and prayers, cK xO

  32. Spouse of Dementia? says:

    My spouse is 58, and I have seen subtle signs of dementia since his mid forties. He becomes confrontational when I try to talk about getting some medical testing, as it could be another problem. He refuses to discuss it, and I believe thinks I am not looking at his interests. He has been primary bread winner our entire marriage but refuses to acknowledge this could leave us both homeless one day.

    Of course I am concerned for myself as well, the person with dementia will get taken care of, but the people who try to help them will not, if they have no money. My spouse controls all finances, lies and has stolen what little money I have had over the years. His personality and care for his marriage has changed dramatically. He has very bad memory, does not read because he cannot focus. Has very bad comprehension of everything from directions to other people’s body language. Complains that I am not doing things right when it comes to all aspects of living.

    He is rarely home and if it were not for the other problems, I would say he was having an affair, but he could not attract a woman with his personality or his stinginess. If anything he is calling 900 numbers and could be spending thousands on that. He is covering something up, but I waste no time trying to figure it out, it is futile.

    Some of you talk about getting financial help but do not give out any info. Why can no one share this info for those of us who are literally feeling helpless? You say there is help, but where?

    For me, I need help as well with getting out of this nightmare with a spouse who tries to make me look like the one with the problem. A mentally unstable spouse will make one doubt their sanity. My husband comes from a family with dementia on both sides. He chalks his problems up to it always being like that. In essence, he is admitting to being learning impaired from childhood but denies he has the problem. His judgement has hit very low standards…..and I have no enjoyment in this situation as a spouse. And no money to get out….

    My point is to please share your knowledge of the system for others so that the help is spread for others to help themselves and their loved ones. I hope anyone in this nightmare has a good outcome. It is the worst thing that can happen to an aging couple. Trust me…the worst

  33. Marsha Williams says:

    I am 32 years old and my mother has recently been diagnosed with early onset alzheimer’s disease. She is a recovering crack addict and addicted to alcohol presently. She was also diagnosed a few years back with paranoid schizophrenia and she was also diagnosed as being bipolar. How long is her life expectancy as she is only 55 years old?? I am so scared right now..

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