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The Late Stages of Alzheimer's Disease

Knowing What to Expect

By

Updated February 11, 2009

Photo © Microsoft
Photo © Microsoft
We don't often talk about the late stages of Alzheimer's, perhaps because they're characterized by a time of slowing down compared to the earlier stages, when challenging behaviors are more prominent. Still, it's important to know what to expect during the late stages of Alzheimer's and how to provide optimal care when Alzheimer's reaches its final phase.

Late-Stage Symptoms

Although each person with Alzheimer's is unique, most individuals affected by the disease progress through a similar series of stages. Each stage is characterized by more serious symptoms, with the late stage requiring total care around the clock.

Late-Stage Digestive Issues

People with late-stage Alzheimer's are at higher risk for malnutrition because of problems with eating and swallowing. They can also experience changes in bowel and bladder function, such as constipation or incontinence. Fortunately, there are strategies that can help your loved one eat and drink safely and improve bowel and bladder regularity.

Late-Stage Medical Issues

In late-stage Alzheimer's, becoming chair-bound or bed-bound poses serious risks to your loved one's body, skin, and the strength of his or her immune system. Learn how to address immobility and reduce your relative's risk for infections with these caregiving techniques and precautions.

Late-Stage Quality of Life

It's important to keep your loved one comfortable during the late stages of Alzheimer's, but this can be challenging because the disease affects your relative's ability to tell you when he or she is uncomfortable. Still, it's crucial to continue communicating and providing comfort by nurturing your personal connection with your loved one. There are several ways to recognize pain and provide comfort during late-stage Alzheimer's disease.

Late-Stage Coping and Anticipatory Grief

While late-stage Alzheimer's creates many practical caregiving challenges, the hardest part of caregiving is often the risk of caregiver burnout and the grief that caregivers feel while their loved ones are still alive. Learn how to avoid caregiver burnout and how to work through grief and loss while you care for your relative.

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