Coping with the changes related to end stage Alzheimer's disease is a difficult undertaking for many family members and friends of those afflicted. Learn what end stage Alzheimer's means and resources to help you cope. Having adequate support and educating yourself about the stages will help you anticipate the inevitable and manage the outcome.
Alzheimer's disease is a debilitating disease, which begins with simple changes in memory and advances to stages of complete loss of cognitive function, eventually leading to death. Millions of Americans are afflicted with the disease, which is often thought of as an age-related condition, though Alzheimer's can affect individuals in their prime years, including those in their 30s and older. There is no cure for the condition, however, treatments may help, such as prescription medications to slow the decline, herbal approaches and other alternative therapies.
End Stage Alzheimer's Disease
Patients with Alzheimer's disease travel through various stages that become increasingly worse as their memory fades due to the destruction of brain cells. The first stages may cause minor memory disturbances, such as is common in many busy or aging individuals. They may misplace their keys; forget appointments and the names of people they meet. These symptoms may not be detectable, even to a medical professional during a medical interview.
The progressing stages may reveal the disease since symptoms like forgetting important facts, dates and names are apparent. By this time, most individuals with the disease are receiving help and medical interventions, such as assistance with meals and dressing. In the end stages of Alzheimer's disease, complete care is required.
The following are the symptoms that indicate end stage Alzheimer's disease:
- Personality changes. Personality changes may occur in the end stages of Alzheimer's disease, causing a once calm and compassionate individual to become aggressive or even profane. Individuals who may have been lively and active may become depressed and withdrawn. This is one of the most difficult changes for families of the patients to accept.
- Loss of bowel and bladder function. In the end stages of Alzheimer's disease, a patient is unable to control his bodily functions
- Repetitive behaviors. Repetitive behaviors may emerge, such as wringing hands or shredding tissue.
- Extreme memory loss. Loss of memory may have deteriorated to the point where the patient can no longer speak more than a few words, walk or sit up without assistance.
- Inability to swallow. In the last stages of Alzheimer's disease, the patient may lose the ability to swallow, making it impossible to eat or be fed normally.
Coping with Alzheimer's Disease
The burden of seeing your loved one lose his or her freedom and identity to Alzheimer's disease is overwhelming. While your focus and attention may be directed solely towards caring for the needs of your loved one, it is important to take care of yourself. Exercise, get enough sleep and be sure to properly delegate the duties you may have pertaining to your loved one's care or your responsibilities at work and home. Enlist the help of others, and don't be afraid to ask for a break, should you need one.
Grief counseling is beneficial for the family and friends of the Alzheimer's affected individual. For those who have exhausted their funds on medications and care of the patient, however, paying for such sessions may be impossible. To help channel your emotions and manage stress, you may consider joining a support group.
The following are examples of organizations that offer resources for friends and family of those with end stage Alzheimer's disease: