Bloomberg News is reporting that Pauline Esther Philips — better known as advice columnist “Dear Abby” — has died. The 94-year-old’s cause of death is also the 6th leading cause of death in the United States: Alzheimer’s disease.
But what does it mean to die from Alzheimer’s?
Though Alzheimer’s is a mind robber, it’s not a direct killer. According to Dr. Sanjay Gupta on CNN:
What happens as the disease progresses is controlling a lot of your body’s functions simply becomes more difficult; things like eating, going to the bathroom, walking, even swallowing become a problem. And if you’re not eating and you’re not moving around, infections can set in. Blood clots can form as well. Your immune system starts to get weaker, putting your body at higher risk for infection – an example of pneumonia.
So basically the complications from Alzheimer’s disease are what ultimately take a person’s life.
According to a panel of doctors on Slate, ”it is possible that an Alzheimer’s patient could progress to the point that damage from the disease to the centers of the brain that control breathing could cause death, but patients rarely get that far without an infection setting in.”
Here’s a lovely eulogy of Dear Abby and more information on the real, kind and quirky woman behind her.