Answers to Your Alzheimer's and Dementia Caregiving Questions

Q: How long does a person with severe dementia live? Are there any statistics?

A: It really depends on how the stages of dementia are defined. Each stage typically lasts three years (mild, moderate, severe).

A person with Alzheimer's dementia typically lives 10-11 years. About 20 percent live to the advanced or severe dementia stage; the majority die before this late stage.

Q: I have noticed my mom has some sort of dementia. I've attempted to get her to go to the doctor, but she is uncooperative. How do I talk her into getting diagnosed? Should I trick her into it if she refuses to go?

A: You are experiencing a common problem. It is very hard for the majority of people with Alzheimer's to recognize their problem.

If you feel that this is a serious issue (i.e., not taking medications, living alone) it is imperative that you get her to a doctor. Since she is probably not going to agree to go see the doctor to discuss memory problems, you will need to figure out another reason for the visit. Also, you may want to call ahead to the doctor's office and let them know that you are concerned about her memory issues.

If she absolutely refuses, you need to look at the risk versus the benefit. Many times memory issues develop gradually and the person is getting the help she needs. If she continues to refuse to visit a doctor, I would recommend suggesting it again every month or so. Perhaps try an approach that is linked to your concern, saying: "I am worried about you, Mom, and it would make me feel better if you went to visit the doctor so that we can rule out if anything may be wrong."

If you see a sudden change in her memory loss, it could be linked to another medical condition, and you should get her medical attention immediately.

Peter V. Rabins is a member of the AARP Caregiving Advisory Panel.

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