In October of 2018, O’Connor issued a public statement announcing her formal diagnosis of the beginning stages of dementia, thought most likely to be Alzheimer’s disease. Sharing her personal reflections, the former Supreme Court justice stated she would no longer be able to actively participate in public life. This included stepping down from her position as leader of her online civics education program, iCivics. “I can no longer help lead this cause, due to my physical condition,” O’Connor had written. She further stated that she would remain in Phoenix, Arizona, amongst her loved ones. “While the final chapter of my life with dementia may be trying, nothing has diminished my gratitude and deep appreciation for the countless blessings in my life.”
While specifics around the complications of O’Connor’s death have not yet been publicly released, research has shown what the most common complications of the condition tend to be. In a 2016 study published in The New England Journal of Medicine, researchers outlined a study involving more than 300 older adults with advanced dementia residing in nursing homes, in which it was found that eating problems, fever, and pneumonia were among the most common complications of advanced dementia.