Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Four years of dementia lifespan

4 candles
Four to five years after the onset of dementia, half of the affected persons have died but this is only an average, largely depending on the age at onset. Such is the result of a fourteen years follow-up statistics in more than four hundred aged persons with dementia in England and Wales.

The median lifespan of aged people with dementia, that is the time from onset of the disease until half of all surveyed persons have died, is 4.1 years in men and 4.6 years in women. Age is by far the most important factor; the median survival time varies from 10.7 years in those aged 65 to 69 down to 3.8 years in those aged ninety and more. Women and those with a better mental or physical status survive longer.

Quartiles give a more detailed picture of how the different lifespans are distributed in the population: A quarter of men will be dead 2.5 years after onset, three quarters 7.6 years after onset of dementia. In women, these lifespans are 2.9 and 7.0 years, respectively. Again, these figures vary with age.

How to deal with these figures

Be aware that this is statistics and cannot be applied to individual cases. These figures are from England and Wales and may be different in other parts of the world.

But all the same this information may help better enjoying the company of a loved one suffering from dementia because he or she may not be around much longer. On the negative side, the burden of caregiving, it may help seeing that this will not go on forever. For professional providers of care as well as for family members, it may help for mid to long-term prognosis, planning, and better coping with the rapidly approaching fact of the inevitable.

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