Receiving the news that a loved one has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s is life-changing. Thinking through the numerous elements and aspects of the disease as well as its impact, both now and in the long term, can be overwhelming.
In this three-part series, we have explored the early, middle and later stages of Alzheimer’s, detailing the type of care recommended during each stage, what family caregivers can expect, and how Inspired Home Care, the award-winning providers of senior care in Wilmette, Illinois and nearby areas, can help.
Symptoms of Late Stage Alzheimer’s and Caregiving Tips to Help
Symptoms of late stage Alzheimer’s, which can last several years, include needs becoming much more pronounced. It is essential to ensure safety and comfort, something that becomes more challenging as the older adult loses the ability to communicate verbally. Self-care for the caregiver is also crucial during this stage, as providing care is often both emotionally and physically draining.
Here are the symptoms of late stage Alzheimer’s that you might expect to encounter:
Greater Care Needs:
- Assistance with walking (and then transferring when walking is no longer feasible)
- Support with drinking/eating, as swallowing becomes more difficult
- Round-the-clock assistance with personal hygiene needs
- Monitoring for and addressing any physical health problems
How You Can Help
As the senior will lose the capability to share how she/he is feeling and what exactly is needed, it’s important to pay close attention to nonverbal cues. Proactive care can be achieved through thorough planning regarding the senior’s day, trying to stick as close to a routine as possible for mealtimes, exercise/repositioning, using the bathroom, etc. These recommendations can help ensure the senior has the very best quality of life and dignity.
- Encourage as much independence as you can. If the senior can still self-feed, allow plenty of additional time and offer foods that are easier to manage, like finger foods in small, bite-size portions.
- Ensure your loved one is sitting upright during mealtime, along with a period of at least 30 minutes after eating.
- Offer plenty of liquids. The senior may have lost his/her feeling of thirst, and might forget to drink.
- Keep an eye on the senior’s weight. Even though some degree of weight loss is to be expected during this stage, it’s important to see the physician when noted for recommendations.
Using the Bathroom:
- A bedside commode can be quite helpful in this stage. Help the older adult as needed for safety, but again, let him/her manage as much of the task as possible independently.
- Reminders to use the toilet at frequent intervals throughout the day can help prevent an accident.
- It is smart to keep absorbent pads and adult diapers on hand to use if needed, particularly overnight.
- The senior might not have a daily bowel movement. However, check with the physician if she/he appears to be constipated, and especially if it is been several days since the last bowel movement.
- Keeping the senior’s skin clean and dry is critical to prevent sores. A regular bath/shower is not necessary, however. A bed bath can be just as effective.
- Make sure your loved one changes position a minimum of every two hours. If bedbound, use pillows or foam wedges to alleviate pressure, and learn proper repositioning and turning techniques.
- Incorporate physical movement into every day, based on the doctor’s approval and recommendations. Even just lifting and bending the legs and arms will help prevent joint freezing.
You can create a relaxing environment for the senior by focusing your time and energy on sensory stimulation, such as by:
- Reading out loud
- Playing or singing his/her favorite music
- Sitting outside when weather permits
- Smoothing scented lotion onto the skin
- Baking a favorite treat
- Reminiscing together through photo albums
- Bringing in a pet therapy animal for the older adult to hold or pet
Reach out to the award-winning dementia care team at Inspired Home Care for more tips to allow for the highest quality of life for a senior loved one in late-stage dementia. We are here 24/7 to assist as much or as little as you’d like.