Complications of dementia depend on the underlying cause of the condition. Complications include loss of ability to function or care for self, verbal and physical abusiveness to loved ones, loss of ability to interact, increased infections anywhere in the body, reduced life span, abuse by an overstressed caregiver, side effects of medications used to treat the disorder, and depression (common in patients with Alzheimer's disease).
Infections: In severe and advanced dementia, individuals may lose all ability to care for themselves. This can make them more prone to additional health problems such as pneumonia, which is a bacterial infection of the lungs and respiratory system. The individual may have difficulty swallowing food and liquids, which may cause them to aspirate (inhale) some of what they eat and drink into their airways and lungs, which may lead to pneumonia.
Urinary incontinence may require the placement of a urinary catheter, which increases the risk of urinary tract infections. Untreated urinary tract infections can lead to more serious, life-threatening infections.
Falls and their complications: Individuals with dementia may become disoriented, increasing their risk of falls. Falls can lead to bone fractures that require hospitalization, medications, and surgery, increasing symptoms of dementia such as confusion and agitation. In addition, falls are a common cause of serious head injuries, such as brain hemorrhage (bleeding in the brain). Prolonged immobilization after surgery and hospitalization may also increase the risk of a pulmonary embolism (blood clot in the lungs), which can be life-threatening.
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