Dementia Friendly Wyoming

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The Later Stages of Dementia

People with dementia differ in the rate with which their abilities change. But because dementia is a progressive condition, their abilities will deteriorate. Most people in the later stages of dementia need total care and usually receive this in a residential facility. Some families and care partners though do choose to care for the person at home.

What happens in the later stages of dementia?

  • Progressive loss of memory
    This can be a particularly disturbing time for family and care partners as the person with dementia may fail to recognize close family members.
  • Increased loss of physical abilities
    Most people with dementia gradually lose their ability to walk, wash, dress and feed themselves. Other illnesses such as stroke or arthritis may also affect them. Eventually the person will be confined to a bed or a chair.
  • Increased difficulty communicating
    A person with dementia will have increasing difficulty in understanding what is said or what is going on around them. They may gradually lose their speech, or repeat a few words or cry out from time to time. But continuing to communicate with them is very important. Remember, although many abilities are lost as dementia progresses, some - such as the sense of touch and ability to respond to emotions - remain.
  • Problems eating
    It is common for people in the later stages of dementia to lose a considerable amount of weight. People may forget how to eat or drink, or may not recognize the food they are given. Some people become unable to swallow properly. Providing nutrition supplements may need to be considered. If a person has swallowing difficulties, or is not consuming food or drink over a significant period and their health is affected, nutrition supplements may be considered for consumption other than by mouth.

Towards the end of life

It can be very difficult for family and care partners to prepare for the end, but by thinking about it and making some plans, it may be a little easier. When someone reaches the final stages of life one of the main concerns is to ensure that they are comfortable and as pain free as possible. If you are concerned that the person with dementia may be in some pain or discomfort, discuss this with the doctor and nursing staff.

 

Information adapted from © Alzheimer’s Australia 1999 Reviewed 2005, 2012, 2013, 2016