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  1. #1

    Dementia in COPD?

    Hello as a newbie I am wondering which section to coose hope this one is OK?
    4 years ago my dad died. The terminal process of COPD for him was quite quick just days but for about 5 months he had been acting like Alzheimers patient. Only his weakness and debilitation stopped him wandering off I think. During that time we had no idea what was wrong with him other than he had had a cough on and off for years. The first sign of dementia for us was his driving..wheelies up the pavement and unable to reverse into a space..never had a single conviction for driving and had been a health and safety officer. I wrote to his GP and chest consultant and they did not heed my observations and did not even bring up the diagnosis of dementia.
    Later the bad language began..smutty stuff and lewd statements..not dad at all...so when he was dying we had a father who was not quite with us and neither did we have any medical diagnosis.
    Last few days he was admitted to hospital because my mother could not get him to go to bed and his care was so difficult as she did not drive. We were summoned to the ward from some distance to be at his death bed (chair) and he was as if he was euphoric or drunk but that could have been some drugs he was on. Minutes after died the consultant came in and said he was baffled and thought it might be MND bit the death certificate after post mortem (took nearly 10 weeks) said only COPD.
    I still feel a lack of resolution..is this typical of COPD..dementia at the end I mean? This went on for months not just days and it was so like ALzheimers yet there was no support at all mostly because we had no medical diagnosis of the behavioural problems. Has anyone experience dementia in the same circumstances and is this common?

    Thanks for listening

  2. #2
    Hi and welcome to Talking Point.

    I understand your desire to sort out once and for all what caused your father's death and I'm prepared to speculate, but I think you'll need to accept that you'll almost certainly never know for sure.

    Having said that - what caused the COPD? I am not familiar with the concept of COPD actually causing dementia, but I think it is highly likely that whatever mechanism cause the COPD may have ALSO caused dementia. For example if the COPD was triggered by smoking that could also cause vascular dementia. As for the death certificate - my mother's said AF (atrial fibrillation) and I though the registrar might have her very own attack: doctors are not supposed to put that down but they do. I think what happens, bearing in mind there was a post mortem, is if there isn't anything to contradict the diagnosis when the person was alive they go with that.

    As to support - with or without a diagnosis it can be difficult to tap into support. My mother never had a formal diagnosis of dementia but that's what it was, caused by strokes and any support we got was what I put in place myself.

    Best wishes

    Volunteer moderator and former long distance carer.

    A test of a people is how it behaves toward the old. It is easy to love children. Even tyrants and dictators make a point of being fond of children. But the affection and care for the old, the incurable, the helpless are the true gold mines of a culture.

    Abraham J. Heschel

  3. #3

    Dementia and COPD?

    I have no idea what caused the COPD..dad never smoked except a few years in RAF in his twenties. He was 72 when he died. All in all a clean living man married 50 years, not a drinker was sporty until his thirties and did an office type job all his life..no industrial detritus etc. There was evidence of a small stroke having occurred at point of death but not the cause of the earlier dementia as far as we could ascertain. The symptom which came first was his head dropped onto his chest and he developed a very strange gasping method of breathing. I dont drive and live a good distance from where he was so I was not completely in tune with what was happening but on visits I could see he had lost a lot of weight and was only eating cakes by choice..acting very childish and was clearly a danger on the roads. We were told that there was nothing could be done to stop him driving at that point unless there were particular diagnoses to present to DVLA.
    I know it is some time after the death but I still flashback to that time when we all felt so helpless and could get no answers. We thought the postmortem would explain all but it explained nothing ..i.e no reason for the many months of dementia anyway. I was shocked and distressed at how my mum got no real assistance and advice but it sounds as if this is a common occurrence whatever the cause of the dementia?
    I forgot to mention that they did find 'some deterioration of the tissue in the brain stem' but this was never really explained and dont know what ilness would cause this? If this is in the neck area would this explain the head dropping down?
    Last edited by perrykate; 16-06-2008 at 09:25 PM.

  4. #4
    Hi PerryKate,

    Realise I am a little late jumping in on this one.

    My dad has alzheimers and mum died from COPD about six months ago. Even though mum went through a very troubled time at the end of life including not eating and for three weeks and some very strong medications, she was always very very sharp right up to the end. The lack of oxygen in her blood would occasionally cause side effects such as slurring, but never effected her memory.

    At the time I was active on a few COPD forum and never read any posts connecting COPD with any form of dementia (and I would have noticed with my history on this forum).

    So having first hand experience of both illnesses, my opinion is that there is not connection between COPD and dementia. I think you dad may have just been incredibly unlucky.

    That is just my humble opinion by the way. Please read my signature.

    EVERYTHING you post can be viewed by people with dementia. Please be respectful at all times.

  5. #5
    New User
    Join Date
    Jan 2009

    COPD patients and dementia

    My MIL has been living with COPD for several years. She was a heavy smoker in addition to asthma. For the past 5 years she has been on 100% oxygen. We have recently moved her from her home to an assisted living facility that also provides Alzheimer and hospice care. She was evaluated by the neurologist upon her arrival there and several cognitive tests were run. the doctor stated that even though she had been receiving supplemental oxygen, her brain was still suffering from oxygen deprivation, thus causing the dementia. He also stated that she would die from the symptoms of dementia before her lungs gave out.

    I'm sorry that you didn't get the answers that you were looking for. Although that smoking is the most frequent cause of COPD, there are other causes. Most important is that most patients suffering from COPD will eventually develop dementia and you need to be aware of the warning signs.

  6. #6
    Hi Rmb,

    most patients suffering from COPD will eventually develop dementia
    Never heard that before and have been on a few COPD forums and googled COPD issues for many years. Where did this information come from?

    I appreciate the oxygen starvation link, but not aware that a large majority of COPD sufferers will develop dementia and not seen this link on forums. Just want to clarify the link for anyone visiting the forum who may have COPD.

    Many thanks
    EVERYTHING you post can be viewed by people with dementia. Please be respectful at all times.




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