Alzheimer’s disease progresses slowly through three general stages: mild, moderate, and severe. Patients in the late stage of Alzheimer’s lose the ability to communicate or respond to their environment and need round-the-clock assistance with all activities of daily living. They eventually become vulnerable to infections and lose the ability to walk, sit, and swallow.
The timing and severity of the disease’s symptoms will affect Alzheimer’s patients in different ways. Still, they all tend to experience a similar trajectory from the beginning of the illness to its end.
What to Expect in the Late Stages of Alzheimer’s
The late stage of Alzheimer’s disease may last from several weeks to several years. As the disease advances, the patient’s needs become much more demanding. Some of the symptoms to expect include:
- Inability to sit, stand, or walk independently.
- Increasing difficulty with communicating or responding appropriately.
- Difficulty sleeping, swallowing and using the bathroom independently (incontinence).
- Neglect of personal care.
- Personality changes such as verbal aggression, anxiety, hostility, and irritability, including increased agitation at certain times of the day (sundowners).
- Social withdrawal, wandering, hoarding, rummaging, becoming confused and disoriented.
The caregiver’s role at this stage is to focus on preserving the patient’s quality of life and dignity. During the late stage of Alzheimer’s, it is recommended that the patient is provided with dedicated care. If they still choose to live at home, they may need additional assistance from an in-home senior care provider when family members are unavailable.