Many people think of dementia as a memory problem, and therefore something that a person can live with indefinitely. In fact dementia is a degenerative disease that eventually stops brain function, just like heart failure or lung disease. If a person with dementia does not die from an infection or from no longer eating & drinking, eventually their brains begin to misfire, causing seizures, and then no longer signal their lungs to breathe. While they are no longer aware by this time, it is terribly difficult for the family to witness. This is why it is so important for family members to agree in advance on matters like treating an infection, or forcibly feeding someone who is no longer interested in food. “Letting nature take its course” rather than intervening with treatments is the kindest approach. Pain and other symptoms can be managed with hospice care so the person is not suffering.
A daughter wrote about her mother’s death from Alzheimer’s dementia, and her post has helped many people come to terms with what to expect.