Receiving the news that an older family member has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia is life-changing. Thinking through the various elements and factors associated with the disease along with its impact, both now and over time, can be overwhelming.
In this three-part series, we’ve covered the early, middle and late stages of Alzheimer’s, detailing the specific type of care recommended during each stage, what family caregivers should expect, and how Absolute Companion Care, a provider of award-winning senior home care services in Bel Air and nearby areas, can help.
Late Stages of Alzheimer’s Caregiving
In the final stage of Alzheimer’s, which can last a number of years, needs become much more pronounced. It is essential to ensure comfort and safety for your loved one, something that becomes more challenging as the older adult with dementia loses the ability to communicate verbally. Self-care for the caregiver is also critical in this stage, as providing care can be both emotionally and physically draining.
Here is what you may expect to encounter during the late stages of Alzheimer’s:
Greater Care Needs:
- Help with walking (and then transferring when walking is no longer possible)
- Careful assistance with eating/drinking, as swallowing becomes difficult
- Round-the-clock help with personal hygiene needs and using the bathroom
- Watching for and addressing any physical medical conditions
Tips on How to Help
As the senior will eventually lose the capability to express how she/he is feeling and what exactly is needed, you’ll want to pay close attention to nonverbal cues. Proactive care is achievable through thorough planning of the older adult’s day, trying to stick as close to a regular routine as you can for mealtimes, exercise/repositioning, using the bathroom, etc. These guidelines can help ensure the senior has the highest quality of life and dignity.
- Foster as much autonomy as possible. If the older adult can still self-feed, allow plenty of additional time and serve foods which are easier to manage, such as finger foods in small, bite-size portions.
- Ensure that your loved one is sitting upright during mealtime, and for a period of at least 30 minutes after eating is done.
- Offer plenty of liquids. The senior may have lost his/her feeling of thirst, and might forget to drink fluids.
- Keep an eye on the senior’s weight. Even though some amount of weight loss will be expected with this stage, it’s important to contact the physician for recommendations when any amount of weight is lost.
Using the Bathroom:
- A bedside commode can be extremely helpful during this stage. Assist the senior as necessary for safety, but again, let him/her handle as much of the task as is possible independently.
- Reminders to utilize the toilet at frequent intervals during the day often help prevent an accident.
- It’s recommended that you keep adult diapers and absorbent pads readily available to use when necessary, especially overnight.
- The senior might not have a daily bowel movement. However, speak with the doctor if she/he appears to be constipated, and particularly if it is been a few days since the last bowel movement.
- Keeping the older adult’s skin dry and clean is vital to prevent sores. A daily bath/shower is not necessary, however. A bed bath can be just as effective.
- Make sure the senior changes position at least every two hours. If bedbound, use pillows or foam wedges to relieve pressure, and learn proper repositioning and turning techniques.
- Incorporate physical movement into each day, according to the physician’s recommendations and approval. Even just bending and lifting the legs and arms can help prevent joint freezing.
You can create a soothing environment for the older adult by focusing your time and effort on sensory stimulation, such as by:
- Reading out loud
- Playing or singing his/her favorite music
- Sitting outside when weather allows
- Smoothing scented lotion on the skin
- Baking a favorite treat
- Reminiscing together through photo albums
- Bringing in a pet therapy animal for the senior to pet or hold
Connect with the award-winning dementia care team at Absolute Companion Care for more ideas to plan for the best quality of life for a loved one in the late stages of Alzheimer’s. We are here around the clock to assist as much or as little as you’d like.