Receiving the news that a senior family member has been diagnosed with dementia is life-altering. Thinking through the various facets and aspects of the disease and its particular impact, both now and in the long term, can be overwhelming.
In this three-part series, we’ve covered the early, middle and later stages of dementia, detailing the type of care needed during each stage, what family caregivers can expect, and how Live Free Home Health Care, offering award-winning live in care in Plymouth, New Hampshire and nearby areas, can help.
Late Stages of Dementia: Symptoms and Care Needs
In the last stages of dementia, symptoms and care needs become much more pronounced. It’s vital to ensure comfort and safety, something which becomes more challenging as the senior loses the ability to communicate verbally. Self-care for the caregiver is also critical in this stage, as providing care is often both emotionally and physically draining.
Here is what you might expect to experience during late-stage dementia:
Greater Care Needs:
- Assistance with walking (and then transferring when walking is no longer possible)
- Support with eating/drinking, as swallowing becomes more difficult
- Full-time help with personal hygiene needs
- Watching for and addressing any physical medical conditions
How You Can Help
As the senior will lose the ability to express how she/he is feeling and what is needed, you will need to pay close attention to nonverbal cues. Proactive care is achievable through careful planning of the senior’s day, trying to stick as near to a routine as possible for mealtimes, using the bathroom, exercise/repositioning, etc. These tips can help ensure the older adult gets the very best quality of life and dignity.
- Foster as much autonomy as possible. If the senior can still self-feed, allow plenty of extra time and serve foods which are easier to manage, such as finger foods in small, bite-size portions.
- Ensure the senior 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 sense of thirst, and might forget to drink.
- Keep an eye on the older adult’s weight. Although some degree of weight loss will be expected with this stage, it is essential to see the doctor when noted for recommendations.
Using the Bathroom:
- A bedside commode can be very helpful in this stage. Help the older adult as necessary for safety, but again, let him/her manage as much of the task as possible independently.
- Reminders to use the toilet at regular intervals throughout the day will help prevent an accident.
- It’s smart to keep absorbent pads and adult diapers on hand to use when necessary, particularly overnight.
- The older adult may not have a daily bowel movement. However, seek advice from the physician if she/he appears to be constipated, and especially if it’s been more than a few days since the last bowel movement.
- Keeping the senior’s skin clean and dry is extremely important to avoid 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 2 hours. If bedbound, use pillows or foam wedges to alleviate pressure, and learn proper turning and repositioning techniques.
- Incorporate physical movement into each day, based on the doctor’s recommendations and approval. Even just bending and lifting the legs and arms can help prevent joint freezing.
You can create a calming environment for the senior by focusing your efforts 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 well-liked treat
- Reminiscing together through photo albums
- Bringing in a pet therapy animal for the senior to pet or hold
Reach out to our award-winning dementia care team at Live Free Home Health Care for additional suggestions to allow for the highest quality of life for a loved one in late-stage dementia. We are here 24/7 to help as much or as little as you would like.