by Tom Bills for In-Law Suite
For the patient diagnosed with Alzheimers disease, life becomes a blur of inaccessible memories, and the family must decide how to care for the individual for an uncertain period of time. One of the earliest questions asked of the diagnosing physician is, “how long do we have?”
While the doctor wants to give a definite answer, there are some major factors that will directly affect the actual term of life remaining, including: elapsed time prior to diagnosis, the patient’s age when the disease is diagnosed, and the general health of the patient.
When an individual experiences memory loss and fears the onset of dementia, efforts are made to compensate for the symptoms of Alzheimer’s and prevent friends and family from noticing the change. Leaving notes written to herself will keep her from forgetting to do the simplest tasks associated with getting dressed, preparing meals, or going to the right destination. When her spouse notices the decline, the thought of caring for an Alzheimer patient is too overwhelming to immediately accept the possibility.
Both partners compensate for any signs of memory failure. By the time the diagnosis is pronounced sometimes three to five years have elapsed. The life expectancy has not really changed because the day of diagnosis may not be the actual beginning of the countdown. In these cases the life span after diagnosis will appear to be shorter than average, which has been stated to be seven years. For most patients, the average time between the symptom onset and the actual disease diagnosis will be 2.8 years.