As I understand it, dementia describes a set of symptoms — I mentioned some of these in my last post. Different types of dementia seem to have a slightly different configuration of symptoms and some can be diagnosed while others, like Alzheimer’s can be tentatively diagnosed, but only truly documented after a person dies (by looking at a brain tissue sample).
What they all have in common is that they are terminal, though some conditions develop more swiftly than others. Activities of daily living (ADL’s) become less and less possible, and almost everything has to be done for the person. The progression and end point, however, are not in doubt. Basically, the brain ceases to be its former self, gradually unlearning all that it has learned. Then the person dies.
If dementia is indeed a terminal illness, why aren’t more people with this condition on hospice care? How is it possible to figure out when a person is somewhat near the point of their last six months of life (the point at which one qualifies for hospice)?
Moreover, why does a person who has move quite far into the stages of dementia (people seem to agree that there are about seven distinct stages) seem more alert and capable one day and less the next?
This Time Magazine article from the October 2009 talks about classifying dementia as a terminal illness and what that means for patients and caregivers.