Although there are many different causes and types of dementia, one thing they all have in common is that they get worse over time. Advanced dementia refers to the final stage of the disease. For everyone, this final stage comes at a different time. On average, across all patients, advanced dementia is reached anywhere from three to six years after they are first diagnosed with dementia. The length of time that the advanced stage of dementia can be lived with is also different for everyone, and can range from months to years.
Over time, dementia affects not only the brain, but the entire body as well. While everyone is different, patients with advanced dementia often have such serious memory problems that they may not even be able to recognize close family members. At the most advanced stages, patients will most likely be unable to move around on their own, depending on others for all their care needs. On average, they usually cannot speak more than about five words.
Eating problems and infections are the most common complications of advanced dementia. Close to ninety percent of patients with advanced dementia will develop problems eating. Unfortunately, when problems with eating begin, it often means that the end of life is near. Almost half of all patients with dementia will experience dementia or fevers. The most common type of infection is pneumonia.
Dementia is a terminal illness, which means that patients with advanced dementia commonly die from the complications caused by this disease. Bodily functions and defenses of patients with end stage dementia are weakened. This means they often get infections or eating problems near the end of life, but advanced dementia is still the major illness leading to these complications and death.