Assessing the Final Stages of Dementia Before Death
Dementia is a complex condition that primarily affects the brain. It is also a symptom of Alzheimer’s Disease. It has no cure and shows a gradual deterioration of cognitive abilities like recognition and speech. The degeneration affects not just thinking but also physical functions. As the condition progresses, it may lead to further complications and ultimately become a terminal illness over time.
What happens in the later stages of dementia?
Late-stage dementia, or advanced dementia, is the final stage of the condition. It is prevalent among the elderly and people with advanced Alzheimer’s. Many changes may happen at this time, and it’s important to stay mindful to provide help before it’s too late. The late stages of dementia are accompanied by the following symptoms.
Severe Memory Loss
At this stage, a person with dementia loses the majority of their memory. In many cases, they may have trouble recognising family members or someone they know. A person with late-stage dementia may need someone to provide support for living at home to avoid being a danger to themselves and the community.
Physical Weakness and Inability
When the cognitive capabilities go, so do the skills and capacity to perform various activities. On top of this, a person with dementia may also have multiple diseases that afflict the muscles, bones, and other physical faculties. At this time, they will no longer be able to walk, wash, and eat by themselves. It is also common for them to have symptoms of urinary and bowel disease.
Swallowing, Eating, and Drinking Problems
A person with dementia may forget how to eat or develop problems swallowing. When this happens, mouth care may help address the issue. The loss of appetite may even result in malnutrition. So caregivers would notice weight loss among patients.
Severe Communication Problems
Communication is one of the very common symptoms of severe dementia. Seniors are unable to speak either because they forgot how to, they are no longer able to access words, or they are suffering from a health complication that causes speech issues. When this happens, people with dementia might need a person to help bridge the gap and provide additional assistance.
Tell-tale Signs of Nearing Death
Once a loved one reaches end-stage dementia, the condition escalates rapidly. This time, caregivers are asked to be vigilant in spotting indicators of dying.
Look out for these attributes of late-stage dementia:
- Lethargy and intense weakness
- Obvious pain when swallowing
- Physical inability resulting in being bed-bound
- Arrhythmia or irregular heartbeats
- Low body temperature
- Frequent loss of consciousness
At the last stages of dementia, living at home becomes challenging, prompting families to admit their loved ones to assisted-living facilities like a hospice. They are equipped to deal with problematic symptoms and offer medical and non-medical support.
Causes of Death Among People With Dementia
The severity of dementia can result in complicated illnesses that ultimately cause death to a person. Since the condition entails the loss of physical and mental faculties, people who have dementia in the critical stages are frail and vulnerable. They are unable to recover from infections and suffer from comorbidity. There are a few medical conditions that affect dementia patients and be the reason for death.
Due to a weakened immune system, people with dementia are often infected with pneumonia. Pneumonia can be progressive and, more often than not, requires palliative care. It affects the pulmonary system and has a rigorous treatment plan. It may also reoccur multiple times during the end-stage of dementia.
Along with pneumonia, secondary health problems like sepsis, stroke, kidney failure, and heart attack may also compromise health. This results in comorbidity, which can put a person with dementia in a critical state.
Preparing for the End of Life
Dementia is cruel, and it’s not easy to have someone suffer from it. Towards the final stages, family members may be exposed to emotional situations, watching their loved ones die slowly and forget their whole life. In its terminal stage, acquiring caregiving services may still be helpful along with treatment to alleviate pain.
Delta Care is a trusted aged care provider in Victoria (VIC), Australia. The facility is designed to extend comfort to the person in need of special attention and to provide peace of mind to the family. There is no better way to prepare for the passing of a loved one than to make sure they get the best care possible. Visit their web page to learn more about their services.
It is also important to seek from several organisations like Alzheimer’s Society which provides information and other resources to a person with late-stage dementia, including their loved one. Make it a goal to learn about the stages of dementia and its impact on health.