Getting the news that an older adult family member has been diagnosed with dementia is life-changing. Thinking through the many elements and aspects associated with the disease and its particular impact, both now as well as in the long term, can be overwhelming.
In this three-part series, we’ve examined the early, middle and late stage of dementia, explaining the type of care recommended during each stage, what family caregivers can expect, and how Anthem Home Care, a provider of memory care in Corpus Christi and surrounding areas, can help.
Caregiving During the Late Stage of Dementia
During the late stage of dementia, which may last a number of years, needs become much more pronounced. It’s vitally important to ensure safety and comfort, something that becomes more challenging as the senior loses the ability to communicate verbally. Self-care for the caregiver is also crucial in this stage, as providing care is often both emotionally and physically draining.
Here’s what you might expect to encounter during the late stage of dementia:
Greater Care Needs:
- Assistance with walking (and then transferring when walking is no longer feasible)
- Help with drinking/eating, as swallowing becomes more difficult
- Full-time assistance with personal hygiene needs, including use of the bathroom
- Watching for and addressing any physical health concerns
Ways to Help:
Because the senior will lose the ability to share how she/he is feeling and what is needed, you’ll need to consider and pay close attention to nonverbal cues. Proactive care is achievable through careful planning of the older adult’s day, attempting to stick as near to a routine as you are able to for mealtimes, exercise/repositioning, toileting, etc. These suggestions can also help make sure the older adult gets the very best quality of life and dignity.
- Encourage as much independence as is possible. Provided that the older adult can still self-feed, permit plenty of extra time and present foods that are easier to manage, such as finger foods in small, bite-size portions.
- Ensure that the older adult is sitting upright during mealtime, and for at least thirty minutes after eating, to avoid aspiration.
- Provide plenty of liquids. The senior may have lost his/her feeling of thirst, and may forget to drink as often as others do.
- Keep a close watch on the senior’s weight. Despite the fact that some amount of weight loss is to be expected during this stage, it’s important to see the doctor when noted for recommendations.
Using the Bathroom:
- A bedside commode can be very helpful during this stage. Assist the older adult as needed for safety, but again, let him/her manage as much of the task as possible independently.
- Reminders to use the toilet at frequent intervals during the day often help prevent accidents from occurring.
- It is wise to keep adult diapers and heavy absorbency pads readily available to use when necessary, especially overnight.
- The older adult may not have a daily bowel movement. However, speak with the physician if he/she seems to be constipated, and particularly if it is been more than a few days since the last bowel movement.
- Keeping the older adult’s skin clean and dry is vital in order to avoid any sores. A daily bath/shower is not necessary, however. A bed bath can be just as effective.
- Make sure your loved one changes position at least every couple of hours. If bedbound, use pillows or foam wedges to ease pressure, and learn proper turning and repositioning techniques.
- Incorporate physical movement into each day, in accordance with the physician’s approval and recommendations. Even just lifting and bending the arms and legs can help prevent joint freezing.
You can create a soothing environment for the older adult by focusing your energy on sensory stimulation, such as by:
- Reading out loud from a book or listening together to a podcast
- Singing or playing his/her favorite music
- Sitting outside when weather allows
- Smoothing scented lotion onto the skin
- Baking a favorite recipe or special treat
- Reminiscing together through photo albums
- Bringing in a pet therapy animal for the senior to pet or hold
Connect with Anthem Home Care, experts in memory care in Corpus Christi and surrounding communities, for additional strategies to allow for the best quality of life for a cherished older adult in late stage dementia. We are here around the clock to help just as much or as little as you would like.