Late-stage dementia can be a tough and challenging time for caregivers and loved ones. However, understanding what to expect during this stage can help make the experience more manageable. The progression of dementia is marked by changes such as memory loss, language impairment, and carrying out familiar daily tasks. Though it’s difficult to predict the exact course of this progressive disorder, the last stage of dementia has specific identifiable characteristics.
As caregivers, it’s important to understand what happens in your loved one’s brain and how that affects their behavior and capabilities. At NursePartners, our Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs), also known as CarePartners, support and care for dementia patients whether they are aging at home or in a healthcare facility. We’ll connect with your loved one as they endure the last stage of dementia symptoms, which can be a challenging and emotionally charged experience.
It’s important to understand the final stages of this disease so you can better adjust your care techniques to be more effective. In this post, we’ll let you know what to look out for during the final stages of dementia.
What is Late-stage Dementia?
Late-stage dementia is the final stage of progressive brain disorder. This is when symptoms become severe enough to significantly interfere with daily life and everyday activities. The exact symptoms will vary from person to person, but they can be extremely challenging for the individual and their caregivers.
At NursePartners, we are trained in using The GEMS™: Brain Change Model, designed by world-renowned occupational therapist Teepa Snow. We use this approach to connect with and care for patients at every stage of dementia.
Under The GEMS™: Brain Change Model, Dr. Snow categorizes dementia stages as gemstones. It’s an approach that encourages a strong care partnership by seeing your loved one as precious, unique, and capable. Our CarePartners use this model to help them to live fully in their moment. The advanced stages of dementia are classified as follows:
Ambers prefer to live in the present and are sensation-driven, manipulating, gathering, and touching objects. They emphasize wants and needs and occasionally wander while unaware of risks. Since they have trouble comprehending and expressing needs due to their limited communication ability, choosing familiar and sensory-stimulating activities is best.
Rubies start to lose their motor coordination. They also experience difficulty with visual awareness and major sensory changes, causing them to require assistance with everyday activities and actions such as brushing, buttoning, and walking. Hand-under-hand assistance helps rubies feel safe and secure.
In the last stage of dementia are our Pearls. They are oblivious to their surroundings like a pearl layered and concealed within a shell. They are also motionless and quiet. Pearls cherish intimate moments by clinging to pleasant noises and recognizable voices.
What are the Symptoms of Dementia Towards the End of Life?
The symptoms of late-stage dementia can vary depending on the underlying cause. Still, people in the last stage of dementia are more likely to experience a decline in physical and cognitive function.
The last stage of dementia symptoms include:
- Difficulty remembering names and faces
- Struggling to speak coherently
- Having a limited understanding of what is being said to them
- Inability to walk
- Difficulty swallowing and feeding themselves
- Inability to use the toilet independently.
They may also suffer from weight loss, incontinence, and sleep problems. In addition, people with late-stage dementia are at an increased risk for falls and other accidents. As the condition progresses, they typically become bedridden and require around-the-clock care.
Further changes are common as a patient’s condition deteriorates within a few days or hours of dying. The person may:
- worsen more quickly than before
- lose consciousness
- be unable to swallow
- become agitated or restless
- develop an irregular breathing pattern
- have a chesty or rattly sound to their breathing
- have cold hands and feet.
How Long Does the Late-stage of Dementia Usually Last?
On average, the final stage of dementia last one to two years. Ultimately, the length of time a person spends in the last stage of dementia will depend on many factors, including the underlying cause of the disease and the individual’s overall health.
How to Support Someone During the Last Stage of Dementia?
Knowing that your family member or friend is near the end of life can be devastating, but making some plans may make things easier. When someone reaches the final stages of life, one of the main concerns is ensuring they are comfortable and as pain-free as possible.
There are a few things that you can do to manage difficult behaviors associated with late-stage dementia:
- Create a calm and safe environment: Make sure the space around them is uncluttered and free from potential hazards. Consider using soft lighting and calming music to create a soothing atmosphere.
- Encourage communication: Try engaging them in conversation and activities they enjoy. This can help them feel more connected and less frustrated.
- Provide support: It is important to provide physical and emotional support to the person with dementia and other caregivers. This can help reduce stress levels and prevent burnout.
Professional Help for Late-Stage Dementia Available in Philadelphia, Montgomery, Chester, and Delaware Counties
For 20 years, NursePartners has supported families by providing compassionate and experienced nurse care to their loved ones living with dementia. We will work with you to devise a comprehensive care plan for your relative.
Contact us today by calling 610.323.9800 for a free consultation. You may also complete our online contact form.