As you age, your loved ones will also age. This natural part of life is unavoidable, so you will most likely watch a parent age physically and emotionally. Unfortunately, your elderly parent may also develop conditions that affect their memory, making your role as caregiver even more overwhelming. Considering an estimated 15 million people will become caregivers for a loved one with Alzheimer's disease, understanding the condition is essential.
Alzheimer's disease progresses over time. Not only will the condition increase memory loss over time, but it can also lead to loss of mobility and difficulties bathing, feeding, and speaking. The disease begins in its early stage, but it can quickly progress to the late, most severe stage. Using this guide, you will understand the symptoms and treatment options for your parent during the late stage of Alzheimer's disease.
Symptoms of Late Stage Alzheimer's
During the early stage of Alzheimer's disease, your parent may have difficulty remembering names, and they may misplace items around the home. In addition, they may struggle finding the right words or phrases when speaking. These minor symptoms are troubling, but they will gradually worsen over the course of the disease.
As your parent enters the late stage of Alzheimer's, they will experience the same symptoms of the earlier stages, but they will become more prominent and severe. In addition, your parent may suffer with the following symptoms during the late stage of the disease:
- Severe Memory Loss
- Difficulty Concentrating
- Inability to Speak
- Loss of Mobility – Unable to sit, stand, walk, bathe or dress
- Inability to Eat – Unable to chew, swallow, drink, or use utensils
- Incontinence – Unable to use the bathroom
- Irritability and Aggression
While surprising to learn, this late stage of Alzheimer's disease can last several weeks to several years. During this time, your parent will spend a great deal of time immobile. Due to this immobility, they will have a higher risk of developing dangerous infections and illness. Many patients will also suffer extreme pain in their joints and muscles due to this immobility.
Late Stage Care Options
Proper care and supervision of your parent is imperative to keep them safe while preventing discomfort and dangerous illnesses. Your parent will require constant supervision during this severe stage of Alzheimer's disease, so having professional help may be beneficial. If your parent will live in your home, consider hiring a nurse to help care for them while you are away for work or other obligations.
To reduce the risk of bedsores during this late stage of the disease, help your parent change positions in the bed or chair every few hours. Prop pillows up under harder areas, such as your parent's elbows and hip.
Your parent's skin will be dry from resting in bed so much, so use gentle motions when bathing them. Use a mild soap while bathing and make sure to blot their skin dry after their bath or shower.
Focus some time on your parent's oral health to prevent infections. Make sure to brush their teeth after eating to remove bacteria from the mouth.
Since the flu can quickly progress into pneumonia, schedule flu shots for your elderly parent to avoid this dangerous condition.
Patients in this late stage of Alzheimer's disease are unable to swallow correctly. In many cases, this will cause the food to travel down the windpipe instead of the esophagus. If the food travels down the windpipe, your parent will not be able to breathe, causing inflammation in the lungs. This is known as aspiration pneumonia, which is the leading cause of death in patients with Alzheimer's disease.
Allow your parent to sit up straight, with their head elevated, while eating. Also, cut up their food in small pieces. This will improve your parent's ability to swallow.
Watching your parent suffer with Alzheimer's disease can be challenging, but ensuring they are loved and cared for will make the time a bit easier. With this guide, you can understand and care for your parent during the late stage of Alzheimer's disease. For more information, talk to a memory care facility in your area.