Late-stage Alzheimer’s and dementia care shifts to a focus on dignity and quality of life. Your loved one’s care will become more intensive, their needs will become more urgent, and new challenges will emerge.
As you’ve watched your loved one’s memory loss progress, you’ve faced the challenges, adapted, and learned as their caregiver.
Here we will share what to expect, how your role will change, and what resources and help is available to you.
Late stage challenges
While memory loss was among the first symptoms for your loved one, in this advanced stage, their symptoms will likely progress. They may lose their language skills, their ability to reason and make decisions, and the ability to navigate daily life without help. They also may experience changes in personality and behavior.
For the challenges and needs they may have as the disease progresses, we’ve provided tips to manage their care.
People with late-stage Alzheimer’s and dementia often are unable to move on their own and need frequent adjustments to stay comfortable. Purchasing special mattresses or seat cushions can be helpful.
A physical therapist or health aide can help your loved one move safely, and provide you with information about how often they need to move, as well as how to keep their joints active with assisted exercises.
With decreased mobility also comes increased skin issues, so it is important to keep their skin clean and dry and to check daily for rashes and sores.
Eating and swallowing
Your loved one may have difficulty eating or swallowing, may be losing interest in food, and may not realize when they’ve eaten or how much they need to eat.
To help them eat safely, they should always be in an upright position. If swallowing is a problem, cut soft foods into small pieces or blend them, and provide reminders to chew and swallow. Adding thickeners to liquids can help with swallowing, as well as offering foods such as applesauce, yogurt, ice cream, or soups.
At this stage, getting enough calories may become an issue. Discuss with their doctor ways to get the amount of calories they need. Supplementing with vitamins might also be necessary.
Make sure you’re always giving your loved one enough time to eat and can focus on what is best for them. Practice patience. Even if you prepared the meal ahead of time and did everything right, they might not feel like eating.
Increased risk of infection
Watch for signs of pain and discomfort in your loved one. Protect them against the flu by getting a shot for them and for you every year. The flu can easily lead to pneumonia in the elderly and result in serious complications.
Poor oral hygiene also can cause pneumonia, so keep your loved one’s teeth or dentures and gums clean after each meal. Attend immediately to cuts or scrapes on the body with warm, soapy water and an antibiotic ointment.
Urinary tract infections and dehydration can be common if your loved one isn’t drinking or moving enough. Watch for fevers and signs of discomfort or disorientation, and make sure they’re taking in enough fluids through water or food.
How your role changes
In late stage Alzheimer’s and dementia, you still can try ways to connect with your loved one even as they lose the ability to talk and share their wants and needs. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, research shows that some of the core of your loved one’s self remains, and is primarily experienced through their senses — sight, touch, sound, taste and smell.
Soothe them by playing music they cherish, showing them old photos, reading them beloved books, preparing their favorite foods, or surrounding them with scents they love.
As you move into this role of preserving your loved one’s quality of life, you might find their urgent needs exceed what you are able to provide, even if you have assistance. It might become too difficult to move your loved one or help them to the bathroom, or the stresses of feeding them and keeping them healthy and safe when they are having difficulty prove to be too much.
Moving your loved one to an assisted living community can be an incredibly difficult choice, but finding the right community can give you more peace of mind than you can imagine.
Finding a community
Kensington Park Senior Living cares deeply about the health and safety of your loved one. Our memory care goes above and beyond by offering around-the-clock professional care to those in the late stage of Alzheimer’s and dementia. We encourage family and friends to be as involved as they want to be with their loved one’s care.
There are two “neighborhoods” at Kensington Park for those requiring memory care. The Haven neighborhood was created for middle to late stages of Alzheimer’s and dementia care, where residents receive a higher level of assistance. Haven provides cozy living spaces to minimize confusion and maximize safety. Your loved one will be surrounded by comfort and familiarity.
Reach out to us today to discuss resources and next steps, and ask any questions you have. We are here for you every step of the way to make sure this transition is comfortable and smooth for you and your loved one.