Often people who have reached Alzheimer’s last stage are in a long-term care facility. Caregivers who have spent years caring for a loved one can no longer meet the demands a patient who requires constant care and medical attention. Even if your loved one is in a care facility, you can do to a great deal provide comfort and care during end-stage Alzheimer’s.
End Stage Alzheimer’s Care Decisions
You and your loved one may have already set up advance directives for health care during the earlier stages of Alzheimer’s. Advance directives for health care are legal documents that outline your loved one’s medical care preferences during Alzheimer’s last stage.
If this is the case, you don’t have to make any major decisions regarding your loved one’s end-stage care. If, however, advance directives are not in place, you and your family have to make those decisions.
One important consideration is achieving a balance between the person’s physical comfort versus prolonging life. For example, you have to decide whether the benefits of certain life-prolonging measures such as tube feeding outweigh the patient’s discomfort.
End Stage Alzheimer’s: Comfort Measures
Hospice care is a type of care that concentrates on promoting patient comfort by controlling pain and other symptoms. Hospice care, or end-of-life care, is for people who have only a few months left to live. It can take place at:
- A hospice care center
- A hospital
- A nursing home
- The patient’s home.
End Stage Alzheimer’s: Making the Most of Your Visits
Communication is important, even in Alzheimer’s late stages. Experts say that the human need for companionship and love remains, even when your loved one does not appear to respond. Although your loved one doesn’t recognize you any more, you can still connect through the senses.
- Hearing: A variety of sounds can bring comfort to someone in Alzheimer’s last stage. Examples are the sounds of nature, music or the rhythm of someone reading aloud.
- Sight: Although your loved one may not recognize you, he may receive comfort from your smile and friendly expression. People with end-stage Alzheimer’s often enjoy the sights of nature as well as its sounds. Take the person outside to enjoy the sights. If that isn’t possible, he may appreciate the comfort of a nature video.
- Smell: Aromas can stimulate the senses. Try rubbing your loved one’s hands or legs with aromatic oils. Familiar scents may be very reassuring.
- Touch: Hold the person’s hand. Massage hands, legs or feet. Greet the person with a hug or say goodbye with a kiss. A gentle touch can be a very reassuring way to show you care.
Alzheimer Society of Canada. (n.d.). Visiting in the late stage. Retrieved June 25, 2010, from http://www.alzheimer.ca/english/care/end-visiting.htm.
Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2009). Alzheimer’s disease: Anticipating end-of-life needs. Retrieved June 25, 2010, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/alzheimers/HQ00618.
U.S. National Institutes of Health: National Institute on Aging. (n.d.). End of life: Helping with comfort and care. Retrieved June 25, 2010, from http://www.nia.nih.gov/HealthInformation/Publications/endoflife/.
U.S. National Library of Medicine. (n.d.). Hospice care. Retrieved June 29, 2010, from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/hospicecare.html.