Understanding Late Stage Of Dementia

Late Stage

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Understanding Late Stage dementia will help you through this challenging time in your loved one’s life. Eventually, full-time care will be needed with day-to-day life activities. In late stage dementia, life expectancy is also lower than average.  Late stage dementia is also known as advanced dementia or severe dementia.

Dementia

When dementia occurs in our loved ones or us, it affects our thinking, memory, behavior, and eventually our mobility. In early-stage dementia, it is difficult to tell if dementia is present or just signs of aging. Early-stage dementia turns into middle-stage dementia where symptoms worsen, and it is easier to see signs of dementia. This stage usually lasts the longest but then eventually transitions into late-stage dementia.

What Is Dementia?

Many wonder what dementia is and if it is a disease? Dementia is not a disease. It is damage done to the brain because of different diseases.

When dementia is present in our loved ones, signs and symptoms can vary from person to person.

Dementia usually affects people who are 65 and older but can also develop in individuals much younger.

What is The Most Common Cause Of Dementia?

What is The Most Common Cause Of Dementia

The most common cause of dementia is Alzheimer’s Disease. This accounts for 2 out of every 3 cases that are seen in the elderly.

Other causes of dementia are Vascular dementia or Dementia from Lewy Bodies.

How long Does Late-Stage Dementia Last?

Late-stage dementia is the shortest stage of dementia, this usually lasts about 1 to 2 years.

Signs Of Late Stage Dementia

Signs Of Late Stage Dementia

Dementia is a progressive disease, which means that it gets worse over time. Late stage dementia will affect the life of your loved one. The speed at which these signs are seen depends on a few different factors as no one progresses through dementia at the same rate.

Severe Memory Loss

In advanced dementia, your loved one experiences severe memory loss. At this point in their life, they may have trouble recognizing their closest family members , familiar faces and things.

While they are suffering from severe memory loss, they may feel more vulnerable than ever before.

How can you help?

Support your loved one as best you can during this stage. When they do recognize you, try engaging and interacting with them, along with reassuring them.

Difficult to Communicate through Speech

In late-stage dementia, it becomes challenging to speak and communicate.

How can you help?

During this stage, it is vital to continue to communicate with your loved one. Share with them about your family, your day. Tell them about the things that make them happy, read stories, and look at magazines together. Although your loved one suffering from dementia struggles to communicate verbally, they can still enjoy the interaction together. You may even see them communicating back with their body language, emotions, and expressions.

Lose the Ability to Walk

Falls become much more common in late-stage dementia. If you are a caregiver in need of some extra support & suggestions and you reside in Texas, schedule a consult with me Your Dementia Therapist.

Encourage Eating and Drinking

Chewing and swallowing become very difficult in late-stage dementia. This is caused because the muscles and reflexes are not working appropriately. This leads to choking and chest infections. You can always contact your doctor to see if a speech therapist evaluation is applicable if a change in status occurs with swallowing.

How can you help?

When it is challenging to get your loved one to eat, make or get meals that they love, encourage them to eat small snacks throughout the day if this helps them eat more food rather than sitting down to three bigger meals.

If eating is still a struggle, try to offer different food textures or drinks that offer more nutritional value to help them get the calories that they need.

Become Incontinent

In late-stage dementia, your loved one will lose bladder control as well as bowel control.

How can you help?

When this begins to occur, consult their doctor to get help on what you can / should do. They can give you advice on the proper continence aids that can help and advise you on what you can do to help manage infections caused by this.

Have extra clothes, towels, and sheets on hand so that you are prepared when accidents occur.

Sleeping More Often

Sleeping more often will become the norm for patients with late-stage dementia.

How can you help?

Your loved ones may sleep more than they are awake, and that is okay. Let them sleep more often if they would like and take advantage of when they are awake. If you start to get concerned about how much they sleep or sleep for very long periods, talk with their doctor.

Behavior Changes

You will start to see behavior changes in your loved one. This can include being more irritable, having hallucinations, believing things that simply aren’t true, acting out, and more.

How can you help?

While there is nothing you can do to directly change behavior, focus on being present with your loved ones and show them grace. Smile at them, sit with them, and comfort them when they are sad or feeling alone. Focus on interacting with their senses including introducing their favorite scents for them to smell. I also find that lavender lotion, pillow spray is good for promoting calmness.

Infections / Pneumonia

Not being able to move like your loved one is used to make them more vulnerable to infections and pneumonia.

How can you help?

To help prevent these infections from occurring, you can do the following:

  • Good Oral Care

Help your loved ones keep their mouth clean by brushing their teeth after every meal. Using a soft toothbrush is best for their gums. I find disposable oral swabs are a good alternative for cleaning the mouth and gums if they seem resistant to a toothbrush. If they wear dentures, be sure to remove them at night.

  • Treat Cuts

When your loved ones cut themselves or have an open wound, treat that quickly, wash the wound with warm soapy water, apply a good antibiotic ointment, and cover it with a bandaid.

  • Flu Shot

It is vital to protect your loved one against the flu. Talk to your doctor to see if they recommend a flu shot for your loved one.

Are There Treatments To Help With Late Stage Dementia?

Are There Treatments To Help With Late Stage Dementia

Currently, there are no treatments that can slow or reverse late-stage dementia.

If your loved one with dementia is experiencing any pain, contact your doctor to see if they recommend any over the counter or prescription medication to help with this.

You can also work with an occupational therapist in your area specializing in dementia to help. Speech therapy may be an option to help with speech and movement issues.

There may be a time when hospice should be considered. If you’re considering hospice care for your loved one, speak with your doctor and they can help you get this set up so that your loved one can be comfortable

What Are The Signs Of End-Stage Dementia?

End-Stage Dementia

Signs of End Stage Dementia

As caretakers and family, it is important to know when our loved ones are close to the end of their life because of dementia. It helps us give the right amount of care while making them feel comfortable. While late-stage dementia signs might differ in individuals, understanding all the end-of-life symptoms can help everyone prepare for what’s to come.

Final 6 months

  • Diagnosis of another condition such as heart failure or cancer
  • More hospitalizations or hospital visits

Final 2 to 3 months

  • Limited speech. Usually consisted of 6 words a day or less.
  • Difficulty swallowing/ chokes easily on food or drinks
  • They can no longer walk or sit up on their own without assistance
  • Incontinence

Final Weeks / Days

  • Hands/feet cold to the touch
  • Can no longer swallow
  • Agitation/restlessness
  • Sleeping more often
  • Drifting into unconsciousness
  • Changes in breathing

If you see these signs of dying with dementia, you may be eligible to get hospice care to help your loved one. When these symptoms begin to occur, collaborate with your physician to consider transitioning to hospice care.

Tips for Managing End of Life Dementia

Keep A Close Eye

Since communication is limited, you need to keep a close eye on your loved one. Look for signs if they are in pain or uncomfortable.

Signs that they are uncomfortable:

  • Moaning
  • Yelling
  • Extra restless
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Sweating
  • Grimacing in pain

If you see these signs, call your loved one’s doctor to help manage the pain further.

Get Proper Equipment

Your loved one may require special equipment towards the end of their life, such as a hospital bed. Working with a hospice can help you get the right equipment to help your loved one be more comfortable.

Keep Them Comfortable

The most important thing you can do for your loved ones is to keep them comfortable in their final days. Towards the end, their mouth will become very dry, so supporting them with mouth care will greatly benefit them.

Get Affairs in Order

While in this stage of dementia, it is important to get all your loved ones’ affairs in order. Make sure attorneys’ financial and health power are in place and know the decisions your loved one wants you to make.

Begin looking into funeral options to know what you want to do for your loved one ahead of time, so you aren’t trying to make decisions while you are grieving. While this may be a difficult time for you and your loved one, savor the moments together. Don’t feel like you are in this alone; reach out for help and support to help get you and your loved one through late-stage dementia.

References

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