"As Alzheimer's disease progresses, the need to nurture, love and be loved increases." American Assoc Geriatric Psychiatrists
With the very recent passing of Tom Magliozzi on November 3rd, one of the hosts of NPR's "Car Talk", due to complications of Alzheimer's, recent reports are quick to try and explain just how Alzheimer's disease causes death.
Alzheimer's is a progressive brain disease in which deposits of abnormal proteins build up on the brain and cause brain cells to die. However, Dr. Marc L. Gordon, chief of neurology at Zucker Hillside Hospital in Queens, New York, says that "Alzheimer's disease is not usually a direct cause of brain death — that is, it does not suddenly cause the entire brain to cease functioning. Most often, the complications of the debilitating disease are what cause the death of Alzheimer's patients." (source)
These complications include infections, bedsores, and aspiration pneumonia, which occurs when Alzheimer's patients (who often have difficulty swallowing) inhale food. Pneumonia is responsible for nearly two thirds of the deaths of patients with dementia, according to the Alzheimer's Society.
Though the CDC reported in 2010 that approximately 85,000 people in U.S. died from Alzheimer's disease, a recent study shows those numbers may be up to six times higher, due to many death certificates not listing Alzheimer's as an underlying cause of death.
It isn't hard to imagine that taking care of a loved one as a caregiver can be an emotionally, mentally, and psychically draining responsibility. May caregivers feel depressed and isolated and have more or less put their lives on hold to care for their loved one. Yet time and life are not only passing for the person being taken of, but for the caregiver as well, so it is crucial that caregivers learn to care for themselves and maintain their one physical and emotional health. Making caregiving schedules in advance, like managing medicine times and doses, taking respites from caregiving, and maintaining or rekindling social activities and personal hobbies can be difficult, but will ultimately help caregivers in reminding them of what makes them their own person apart from helping a loved one, and aid them in relieving the stress involved in the tasks they've compassionately and responsibly chosen to undertake.
The article below details the steps a caregiver can take to improve the quality of their caregiving by first improving the quality of their own life.