Getting the news that a senior loved one has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s is life-changing. Thinking through the many different facets and aspects associated with the disease, along with its impact, both now as well as in the long term, can be overwhelming.
In this three-part series, we’ve covered the early, middle and late stage Alzheimer’s symptoms, detailing the specific type of care needed during each stage, what family caregivers can expect, and how Grace Home Care, a provider of award-winning Alzheimer’s and senior care in Topeka, Kansas can help.
Late Stage Alzheimer’s Symptoms & Caregiving Tips
During the final stage of Alzheimer’s, which can last a number of years, needs become much more pronounced. It is vitally important to ensure comfort and safety, something which becomes more challenging as an older adult with dementia loses the capacity to communicate verbally. Self-care for the caregiver is also essential during this stage, as providing care is often both emotionally and physically draining.
Here are the late stage Alzheimer’s symptoms that you might expect and care tips that can help:
Greater Care Needs:
- Assistance with walking (and then transferring when walking is no longer feasible)
- Help with drinking/eating, as swallowing becomes difficult
- Round-the-clock assistance with personal hygiene needs, including use of the washroom
- Monitoring for and addressing any physical health conditions
Tips on How to Help
As the senior with dementia will lose the ability to communicate how he/she is feeling and what is needed, you’ll need to pay close attention to nonverbal cues. Proactive care can be accomplished through careful planning regarding the older adult’s day, making it a priority to stick as close to a routine as possible for mealtimes, exercise/repositioning, using the bathroom, etc. These strategies can help make sure the senior maintains the highest quality of life and dignity.
- Foster as much autonomy as you possibly can. If the senior can still self-feed, allow extra time and provide foods that are easier to manage, such as finger foods in small, bite-size portions.
- Ensure your loved one is sitting upright during mealtime, and for a period of at least thirty minutes after eating.
- Offer plenty of liquids. The senior might have lost his/her sense of thirst, and could forget to drink.
- Keep an eye on the older adult’s weight. While some amount of weight loss will be expected during this stage, it’s important to see the doctor when any weight loss is noticed, for recommendations.
Using the Bathroom:
- A bedside commode can be quite helpful during this stage. Assist the senior loved one as needed for safety, but again, let him/her manage as much of the task as possible independently.
- Reminders to use the toilet at routine intervals throughout the day can help prevent an accident.
- It’s wise to keep adult diapers and absorbent pads readily available to use as necessary, especially overnight.
- The older adult might not have a daily bowel movement. However, seek advice from the doctor if he/she seems to be constipated, and especially if it’s been a few days since the last bowel movement.
- Keeping the older adult’s skin clean and dry is extremely important to avoid sores. A daily bath/shower is not necessary, however. A bed bath can be just as effective.
- Make sure the senior changes position a minimum of every two hours. If bedbound, use pillows or foam wedges to ease pressure, and learn proper turning and repositioning techniques.
- Incorporate physical movement into each day, based on the physician’s approval and recommendations. Even just lifting and bending the arms and legs will 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 favorite treat
- Reminiscing together through photo albums
- Bringing in a pet therapy animal for the older adult to pet or hold
Grace Home Care provides specialized Alzheimer’s and senior care in Topeka, Kansas. Contact us for additional tips to help create the best quality of life for a loved one in late-stage dementia. We’re here around the clock to assist as much or as little as you’d like.