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Mistakes to Avoid in Late-Stage Alzheimer’s Care

by Richard Bitner
Mistakes to Avoid in Late-Stage Alzheimer’s Care

Caring for someone with late-stage Alzheimer’s can be a difficult and heartbreaking process, one that’s extremely hard to navigate. Family caregivers often feel like they are left without a roadmap, a situation that can lead to wrong turns and, poor decisions, and unnecessary suffering on the part of the person with Alzheimer’s. Mistakes to Avoid in Late-Stage Alzheimer’s Care
With the right information, though, family caregivers can avoid many of the most common mistakes made during late-stage Alzheimer’s care. To help ensure the comfort and well-being of your loved one, you will want to avoid the following five common late-stage Alzheimer’s care mistakes…

Ignoring the Alzheimer’s Sufferer

People with late-stage Alzheimer’s suffer from severe cognitive and physical impairments, with many losing the ability to speak, understand language, recognize their loved ones, and move around on their own. In response, some people make the mistake of treating the afflicted person as if they are not there or as if they no longer have feelings. Mistakes to Avoid in Late-Stage Alzheimer’s Care
This is a grave mistake that can lead to serious emotional consequences in the person with Alzheimer’s. Ignoring a person with Alzheimer’s can exacerbate existing feelings of isolation, loneliness, and disorientation, causing great emotional distress. By paying attention to the person with Alzheimer’s and tending to their needs, you can relieve those feelings, making them feel loved and appreciated.
Some of the ways that you can brighten the day of someone with late-stage Alzheimer’s include:

  • Making their favorite foods or playing their favorite music, which can provide sensory pleasure and trigger feelings that were once associated with happy memories.
  • Brushing their hair, gently holding their hand, or spending time next to them, which will offer the comfort and security of human contact.
  • Spending time in green spaces, which has been shown to reduce feelings of stress and anxiety in Alzheimer’s sufferers.

Poor Attention to Oral Hygiene

Oral hygiene is a crucial part of preventing sickness and infection in those with late-stage Alzheimer’s. Pneumonia is one of the most common complications seniors experience in the diseases later stages, and the risk of pneumonia increases if oral bacteria is not kept in check. It’s therefore important that caregivers take the time to keep teeth, gums, and/or dentures clean. Mistakes to Avoid in Late-Stage Alzheimer’s Care
To reduce the risk posed by oral bacteria, teeth should be brushed after each meal and dentures should be cleaned each night. It’s also important that caregivers be gentle when assisting with oral hygiene, using a soft-bristle toothbrush — or even soft gauze — to avoid scraping or cutting the person’s gums.

Not Changing Their Position

Many Alzheimer’s sufferers lose the ability to move on their own in the disease’s later stages. This leads to hours spent in a single position, causing bedsores, poor circulation, and “joint freezing.” As a result, sufferers experience pain, further loss of mobility, and are put at risk of dangerous infections.
To reduce these risks, caregivers should make sure that those with Alzheimer’s never spend more than two hours in the same position. Gently helping your loved one move to a new position every couple of hours will help them avoid the problems commonly associated with immobility.

Missing Signs of Pain and Discomfort

Late-stage Alzheimer’s robs sufferers of the ability to understand or use language. This makes it incredibly difficult for them to articulate when they are in pain, discomfort, or agitation. This can lead to caregivers missing or ignoring signs that those with Alzheimer’s are in distress and need assistance.
Alzheimer’s professionals believe that missed signs of pain and discomfort lead many of those with late-stage Alzheimer’s to experience unnecessary pain and suffering. With no one noticing their signs of distress, these sufferers fail to receive much-needed treatment that would relieve their pain and ensure they are comfortable through the end stages of their condition.

Lack of Communication with Doctors & Caregivers

When caring for someone with late-stage Alzheimer’s, many families rely on professional support from doctors, nurses, and professional Alzheimer’s care providers. Medical professionals and care workers typically have the information, expertise, and experience needed to handle the challenges of late-stage Alzheimer’s.
Unfortunately, many families have a lack of communication with care professionals. When caring for a loved one with late-stage Alzheimer’s, research shows that most families fail to have detailed conversations with doctors about their loved one’s treatment plan and prognosis. This leaves families with inadequate information when making key decisions about their loved one’s care. One common result of this is that families request invasive or painful medical treatments for their loved ones, even in situations where most professionals would recommend palliative treatment.
To avoid these mistakes, families are advised to have detailed conversations with doctors, medical support staff, and care professionals. These conversations should happen at the start of care and at any major change in treatment. Communication should also be maintained throughout care so that you are always aware of your loved one’s condition and treatment options.
If you require late-stage Alzheimer’s care for a family member, Visiting Angels can provide that care in the comfort of your loved one’s home. To learn more, contact your local Visiting Angels office today.
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Mistakes to Avoid in Late-Stage Alzheimer’s Care

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