Aspiration and Alzheimer's

After reading the obituary for Tommy from Car Talk, I've been thinking about complications from Alzheimer's which lead to death.

As we've discussed several times before, Alzheimer's is a terminal disease which causes the brain to die over an extended period of time.  It prevents the body from healing from disease or injury.  If the body goes long enough, organs can fail and the body may even have difficulty producing its new blood leading to anemia.  If the anemia is severe enough, the individual may need blood transfusions to increase the hemoglobin allowing oxygen to be increased in the body.  (I remember my husband's grandmother received several transfusions before she passed after having Alzheimer's for many years.)  Anemia is interesting because it may be a result of malnutrition which itself may be a result of the body no longer being able to properly absorb nutrients as a result of the Alzheimer's itself.

One of the other complications is aspiration.  When the individual is in the late stages of Alzheimer's they may have difficulty swallowing when eating or drinking.  As a result, food or liquid goes down the wrong pipe and an infection can result if it is not cleared.  The other danger is that the person may die as a result of choking.

We're seeing this a bit with Lyn in the amount of drool she's constantly wiping away.  While we hope she doesn't choke or aspirate, the risk is a reality.


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