vascular dementia

hi last year my mom was diagnosed with vascular dementia. it seemed to come on fast and hard after her 2nd brain tumor removal. she was 64. she turned 65 in march this year and it killed her by june 25th. i just do not understand what did it do to her that it took her life? I thought dementia made you think and act crazy but how does it kill you?

Just a guess but it seems that dementia is a failure of the brain. The brain controls every function of the body, so it would follow that a failing brain would affect more than simply cognition. If the brain is not working, then how is the rest of the system going to function properly?

It killed my mother too (that and heart insuffiency and pneumonia), and from what I understood of the doctors’ explanations at the time it seems it is the cumulative effect of a lot of small strokes (she had small strokes of very limited effect in the two previous years).

When small areas of the brain die one by one, I assume eventually you die of it.

Vascular dementia does not include tumors (those are just two links, none of the first dozen I checked mentions tumors). Are you sure that’s the only diagnosis she had?

But, it is often associated with strokes, which do kill. My grandfather had what’s called “transitory ischemic attacks” (minor strokes) for two years, eventually he had the big one that got him. No dementia in his case, but that’s because of which brain areas were affected for him (mostly he’d lose coordination); for a patient who gets vascular dementia, the areas affected are different ones.

It killed my dad by impairing his swallowing reflex, among other things. As the blood supply to the brain gets shut off there are all sorts of body functions, small and large, that don’t work right any more. Not being able to swallow properly leads to pneumonia, and that’s generally a death sentence for the old and ill. There were other things going/shutting down too, and the cumulative effect gets to be just too much.

I’m an MD who deals a lot with death and to address this question I’d broaden the topic a bit and say that the roads leading to death can be thought about in two broad categories. One is where there is a direct and clear link between the underlying cause (ie. the primary so-called “etiologically specific” disease or injury that started the process) and the mechanism (ie, the final thing that “failed” and brought the curtain down). A classic example would be a heart attack, where atherosclerosis (clogging) of the coronary arteries, or artery, as one is all it takes, leads directly to deprivation of blood flow to an area of the heart, which leads to directly to a rhythm malfunction, which leads directly to pumping malfunction, which deprives the brain of blood flow, which leads to death.

The other broad category are those diseases where there is not so clear or obvious a link between the underlying cause and final mechanism. I would put dementia and, often, cancer in this category. Those diseases have systemic effects and what actually happens at the ver end is not always, often not, very clear. Maybe I’m letting a cat out of the bag (or exposing my personal ignorance) but I will say that the docs don’t always know the final mechanism in these cases. The disease just " does stuff", some of which we can detect, others not. Sure, sometimes one of those things it does may rise to the level of a death mechanism. Often with dementia and cancer it’s pneumonia, but oftn the " final" insult is unknown.

I’m sorry for your loss. Take care of yourself and your feelings.

I’m sorry for your loss, dixxi_moon.

Thanks for that honest answer, eightysix.