Complications

Aspiration

The most common cause of death for people with AD is aspiration pneumonia. This develops when a person does not swallow right. Food or liquid goes down the trachea (windpipe) instead of the esophagus (food pipe). This can cause blockage, damage, injury, and/or infection. 

It also can cause chemical damage, known as chemical pneumonitis, which can result in inflammation because the lungs see the food as a foreign invader. It can also lead to pneumonia.

A number of factors determine the type of treatment: how early the pneumonia is caught, its severity, the amount of lung involved, the type(s) of bacteria included, and the person’s general health. In most cases, treatment options include support care, respiratory support, and antibiotics. 

There are several ways to reduce the risk of aspiration. These include having the person eats with his or her head fully elevated and ensuring food is cut in small pieces for easy swallowing.

Other Complications

As discussed by the National Library of Medicine, other complications associated Alzheimer’s disease (AD) include:

Complications that arise from progressively degenerative symptoms of AD include:

  • forgetting recent events or conversations
  • difficulty performing more than one task at a time
  • difficulty solving problems
  • taking longer to perform hard activities
  • language problems, such as trouble finding the name of familiar objects
  • misplacing items
  • getting lost on familiar routes
  • personality changes and loss of social skills
  • losing interest in activities previously enjoyed
  • flat mood
  • difficulty doing tasks that take some thought, but used to come easily, such as balancing a checkbook, playing complex games (such as bridge), and learning new information or routines
  • forgetting details about current events
  • forgetting events in their own life history and losing awareness of who they are
  • change in sleep patterns like waking up at night
  • difficulty reading or writing
  • poor judgment and loss of ability to recognize danger
  • using the wrong word, mispronouncing words, speaking in confusing sentences
  • withdrawing from social contact
  • having hallucinations, arguments, striking out, and violent behavior
  • suffering from delusions, depression, and/or agitation
  • difficulty doing basic tasks, such as preparing meals, choosing proper clothing, and driving
  • difficulty swallowing both foods and liquids
  • incontinence

If the AD reaches its final stages, the complications include a complete inability to:

  • recognize family members
  • understand language
  • perform any of the basic activities of daily living, such as eating, dressing, going to the bathroom, and bathing