Your loved one has lived with an Alzheimer’s diagnosis for years. In addition to memory loss, they have lost many abilities, including the ability to walk, sit, eat, speak and swallow. They now need help with all their activities all the time.
Late Stage Alzheimer’s can last from 1 to 3 years. The cumulative effect of years of Alzheimer’s caregiving combined with the strain of watching a loved one deteriorate may impact the well-being of the caregiver. Be alert to caregivers who may disregard their own health priorities or postpone treatment in favor of providing even more care for their loved one.
Late Stage Alzheimer’s is classified as Stage 7 cognitive decline on the commonly used 7 stage Global Deterioration Scale (also know as GDS or the Reisberg Scale).
The following symptoms indicate that your loved one has entered the third stage of Alzheimer’s. The Alzheimer’s Association calls this Late Stage Alzheimer’s:
Late Stage Alzheimer’s Symptoms
- May be able to say some words or phrases but cannot have a conversation.
- Loses ability to walk, sit, eat, speak and swallow.
- Becomes bedbound. This makes them more likely to get infections, especially pneumonia.
- Blood clots, skin infections and sepsis are also common.
- Requires assistance to eat
- Can no longer tell when they're thirsty
- In time, loses ability to swallow
- Requires assistance using toilet
- May lose bowel and bladder control (incontinence)
- Experts estimate that in late stages of Alzheimer’s, individuals spend about 40 percent of their time in bed at night awake and a significant part of their daytime sleeping. In extreme cases, people may have a complete reversal of the usual daytime wakefulness-nighttime sleep pattern.
Late Stage Alzheimer’s Treatment
- In-home senior care – In-home services for people living with Alzheimer’s. Caregivers are free to go to work, rest, exercise or do something enjoyable.
- Assisted Living – A private institution that provides a residence and offers support services.
- Nursing Home – A nursing home is a private institution that provides a residence, offers support services and includes skilled nurses on staff.
- Memory Care – A private institution that provides a distinct form of long-term skilled nursing that specifically caters to patients with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and other types of memory problems. Memory care units usually provide 24-hour supervised care within a separate wing or floor of an Assisted Living or Nursing Home.
- Hospice – Hospice is care for the terminally ill. During hospice care, medications intended to heal are often excluded and medications that increase the patient’s comfort are added. Hospice care can often be provided wherever the loved one resides.
Impact on Caregiver and Family
During Late Stage Alzheimer’s there are at least two people who need care: the person living with Alzheimer’s and the caregiver. By now the cumulative effect of caregiving combined with the strain and depression associated with watching a loved one deteriorate has taken a toll on the caregiver’s well-being. Many caregivers postpone or disregard their own health in favor of providing more care for their loved one. Caregivers need your encouragement to pursue medical treatment and time away from caring. They need to know someone will coordinate care for their loved one living with Alzheimer’s if they need to heal from treatment or surgery.