30 Sep 4 Main Areas of Concern in Late-Stage Alzheimer’s Disease and How Caretakers Can Address Them
Late-stage Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is extremely difficult for both the patient and the caretaker. The caretaker is forced to watch as their loved one’s cognitive and physical abilities slowly decline. It is physically and emotionally draining.
Knowing your major concern areas ahead of time can help you deal with these issues better once your loved one reaches that point. Here are the most significant areas of concern and a brief suggestion on how to deal with each.
Losing Communication Skills
Your loved one may still be able to speak, but he or she will have trouble forming complete thoughts. Their comprehension of what you tell them will be severely decreased. Instead, they communicate through their other senses. Bonding with your loved one through the other senses is still possible. Try eating food that your loved one enjoys, playing music, looking at old photos, rubbing their hands or feet with lotion, or simply sitting outside together.
Your loved one may not be able to understand where they are, when it is, or who is around them on a daily basis. They will lose memories of beloved family members and friends. Patience is key at this point, but you also need to be sure that you do not allow your loved one to wander alone.
Increased Care Time
The time that you must devote to your loved one will increase significantly. They can no longer do daily tasks like brushing their hair or getting dressed. Their movements are difficult to control. One study reported that the average caretaker spent about 46 hours per week caring for their loved one. Being prepared for this transition and having resources and support can make a world of difference. Caretakers often report increased depression and anxiety at this stage, so it is important to take care of yourself as well.
Increased Vulnerability to Illness
Decreased movement and loss of the ability to communicate means that your loved one could be ill and you may not realize it. It is important to look for signs of illness and make efforts to keep your loved one healthy through encouraging cleanliness, good nutrition, and movement.
Having knowledge and support is your best preparation for late-stage AD. Fill out the form on this page to be included in our monthly eNewsletter for ongoing information and updates.
Schulz, R., et al. (2003). End-of-Life Care and the Effects of Bereavement on Family Caregivers of Persons with Dementia. The New England Journal of Medicine. 349:1936-1942. doi. 10.1056/NEJMsa035373.
Arcand, M. (2015). End-of-life issues in advanced dementia, Part 1: Goals of care, decision-making process, and family education. Canadian Family Physician. 61(4):330-334.