What can I expect as my mom now experiences the later stages of Alzheimer’s?

The later stage of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia can be very distressing for you and your family, and a time you should enlist support from others, complete advance directives and make decisions on hospice and palliative care.

Because each individual experiences the disease in a unique way, signs and symptoms can be varied. In the later stage of the disease, most individuals lose the ability to walk and are confined to the bed and eventually assume a fetal position.

Your mom will become increasingly frail due to the progression of the disease, and the memory loss is very severe, which may include not even recognizing you anymore.

Occasionally, however, you may find that your mom has sudden flashes of recognition and/or cognitive abilities.

Since she may gradually lose her speech, watch her facial expressions and body language in reference to how she is communicating with you and how she is feeling and/or if she is experiencing any pain.

Continue to talk to your mom as much as possible, as this will preserve her dignity, and there may be even moments when she quietly responds.

Problems with chewing and swallowing are common during the later stages of the disease.

Loss of bowel and bladder control is inevitable in Alzheimer’s and dementia; however, make sure these issues are not caused by treatable medical conditions, such as a urinary tract infection, constipation or medication side-effects.

You might also witness some overly unusual or puzzling behaviors, such as increased agitation, aggression and confusion.

Additionally, your mom may start repetitive movements, like rocking back and forth, but this is just a comfort and coping mechanism for her. She might also suffer from delusions and hallucinations, become restless and you may notice that she has developed excessive hand activity and fidgeting motions.

Whether your mom is cared for at home, in a hospital, nursing or hospice facility, always make sure she is comfortable and feels secure.

While you are taking care of her needs, remember also, to always take care of yourself.

Questions about Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia disorder? Contact Dana Territo, the Memory Whisperer, Director of Services at Alzheimer’s Services of the Capital Area, (225) 334-7494, advice@alzbr.org, or visit the organization at 3772 North Blvd., Baton Rouge.