Dementia is one of the most common and debilitating illnesses that affect the elderly. If you are caring for someone with dementia, it is important to know all about the end-stage of dementia.
End-stage dementia sometimes called “late-stage dementia” is the point of dementia in which the symptoms become severe to the point where someone requires help with everyday activities. Each person experiences this illness in their way, however, end-stage dementia may last anywhere from one to three years.
In this article, we will examine end-stage dementia and its attributes.
Signs of End-Stage Dementia
Here are a few standard signs and symptoms of end-stage dementia
- Speech is limited to single words or phrases that may not make sense
- They have more frequent falls
- Have a limited understanding when someone speaks to them
- Needs help with most everyday activities
- They become less mobile
- Have difficulty eating, drinking, and swallowing
- Bowel and bladder incontinence
- Unable to walk or stand, issues sitting up, and becoming bed-bound
End-stage dementia is a seriously draining illness. It can take over someone’s ability to be themselves and interact with others. The hardest part, is for their friends and family members, to see them fade away through time. Sometimes it can seem to all happen so quickly, whereas other times it seems to be a rushed process.
A person in the later stages of dementia may have symptoms that may suggest they are closer to the end of their life, but can sometimes live with these symptoms for a few months, making planning difficult if it has not already been done.
As someone’s condition worsens, and they are within a few days or hours of dying, these common changes may occur:
- Deteriorate quicker than before
- Lose consciousness
- Unable to swallow
- Become agitated or restless
- Develop an irregular breathing pattern
- Have cold hands and feet
Although it can be difficult to know when their time has come, it is important to make sure they are as comfortable as possible. We can help by providing a comfortable atmosphere, as well as medications when needed to help with pain and emotions in our patients.
As someone nears the end of their life, there tends to be more pain due to swelling and immobilization, as well as pain from past injuries, accidents, and falls. Something may go untreated, due to the inability of an end-stage dementia patient to communicate. Because of this, pain medications and management are important when a patient is showing signs of the dying process. Their comfort is of top priority at this point.
When should hospice be considered?
The sooner you call for help, the sooner you will gain access to comfort, support, and quality of life for your loved one. Calling for hospice is getting help, not giving up.
Hospice focuses on caring, not curing, where the comfort of someone and their loved ones trumps anything else. A hospice care team can help manage pain, anxiety, and other difficulties someone with end-stage dementia may be struggling with. If you’re currently caring for a loved one who has dementia and you think they’re ready for hospice, contact Hospice Care of Central Georgia. We have a team of loving and professional caregivers who specialize in caring for those with dementia.
How can I support someone with end-stage dementia?
There are many ways to support someone with dementia at the end of life. However, people with dementia are at risk of receiving poor care due to their inability to communicate and say what they want. Communication is very important among caretakers so that everyone is on the same page on how to keep someone comfortable through these trying times.
Pain management is vital to making people comfortable in this situation. If someone’s behavior changes, they may be expressing that they are in pain. Usually, at this stage, they are unable to speak to let you know what is bothering them, so finding other ways for them to show you what is wrong is helpful, like pointing fingers, etc.
People with dementia tend to be happier and more comfortable in familiar surroundings, whether it be some music or scents. The environment plays a large role in their happiness and ease of communication with their caretakers. Family is also very important, keeping them in the loop will help with visits and overall happiness throughout the process.
Important notes for the caretaker of a loved one with end-stage dementia
By focusing so much on your loved one’s needs throughout the progression of their dementia, it is easy to fall apart and begin to neglect your own needs. If you aren’t getting what you need emotionally and physically, you may experience burnout and suffer from feeling overwhelmed.
Make time for yourself
Be sure to keep up with your normal doctors’ visits and watch for signs of excessive stress. Caretaking can take a huge toll on someone so it is important to keep in contact and hang out with friends and family. Take a break from caregiving and involve yourself in activities that bring you joy.
Talk with others
Talk to a trusted friend, family member, or therapist about what you’re going through. You can relieve a lot of your stress by speaking face-to-face with someone about your situation.
Physical activity releases endorphins that can help boost your mood and energy. Try your best to get thirty minutes out of every day to exercise, if you cannot do it all at once, split it up into smaller sessions throughout your day.
Relaxation is key
Caregiving for a loved one with dementia can be one of the most stressful things you will ever do in your life. Try finding some relaxation techniques to help you find your body’s natural relaxation response, such as deep breathing, meditation, or yoga.