Receiving the news that a senior loved one has been diagnosed with dementia is life-altering. Thinking through the varying elements and aspects associated with this disease and its impact, both now and the future, can be overwhelming.
In this three-part series, we have examined the early, middle and late stage of dementia, detailing the type of care recommended during each stage, what family caregivers should expect, and how Abby Senior Care, a provider of award-winning in home elderly care in Denver and nearby areas, can help.
Late Stage Dementia Caregiving
During the last stage of Alzheimer’s or dementia, which can last a number of years, needs become much more pronounced. It’s important to ensure comfort and safety, something which becomes more difficult as the senior loses the capacity 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 experience during late stage dementia:
Increased Care Needs:
- Assistance with walking (and then transferring when walking is no longer possible)
- Careful assistance with eating/drinking, as swallowing becomes difficult
- Round-the-clock assistance with personal hygiene needs
- Watching for and addressing any physical health concerns
Tips on How to Help
Since the senior will 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 careful planning regarding the senior’s day, attempting to stick as near to a routine as possible for mealtimes, using the bathroom, exercise/repositioning, etc. These strategies often help ensure the older adult has the very best quality of life and dignity.
- Foster as much independence as you possibly can. In the event that the older adult can still self-feed, allow a lot of additional time and present foods that happen to be 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 30 minutes after eating.
- Offer plenty of liquids. Your loved one may have lost his/her feeling of thirst, and might forget to drink.
- Keep an eye on the senior’s weight. While some amount of weight loss will be expected during this stage, it’s essential to see the doctor when noted for recommendations.
Using the Bathroom:
- A bedside commode can be beneficial during this stage. Help the senior as necessary for safety, but again, let him/her handle as much of the task as possible independently.
- Reminders to use the toilet at frequent intervals during the day often help prevent an accident.
- It is a good idea to keep absorbent pads and adult diapers readily available to use as necessary, particularly overnight.
- The senior may not have a daily bowel movement. However, seek advice from the doctor if she/he seems to be constipated, and particularly if it is been several days since the last bowel movement.
- Keeping the senior’s skin clean and dry is critical to avoid sores. A daily bath/shower is not essential, however. A bed bath can be just as effective.
- Make sure your loved one changes position at least every couple of hours. If bedbound, use foam wedges or pillows to ease pressure, and learn proper repositioning and turning techniques.
- Incorporate physical movement into every day, according to the doctor’s approval and recommendations. Even just bending and lifting the legs and arms will help prevent joint freezing.
You can create a soothing environment for the older adult by focusing your time and energy on sensory stimulation, for example, 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 senior to hold or pet
Contact the award-winning dementia care team at Abby Senior Care for additional ideas to plan for the highest quality of life for an older adult in late stage dementia. We’re here around the clock to assist just as much or as little as you would like.