Being Patient (September 3, 2019): End Stage Alzheimer’s: What to Expect and How to Build Resiliency

September 3, 2019

Alzheimer’s disease can be a long haul, with some symptoms taking years and even decades to progress. By the time a patient is in end stage Alzheimer’s, however, the signs are clear. They’ve progressed to severe dementia, and will likely need around-the-clock care for physical and mental needs.

Reaching the end stage of the disease can be devastating. But experts and researchers are now exploring ways that resiliency, and a person-centered approach, can actually help people function better for longer in this final stage. Here’s what to expect in end stage Alzheimer’s, and how experts hope new approaches can have a positive effect.

End stage Alzheimer’s, also known as late stage or severe Alzheimer’s, falls into the last category of the progression of the disease. Breaking up the disease into stages helps explain what’s happening medically for both physicians and caregivers. It also helps caregivers prepare, says Sam Fazio, Senior Director of Quality Care and Psychosocial Research at the Alzheimer’s Association.

“We try to talk about the stages as a blueprint that might happen at different points throughout the disease,” Fazio told Being Patient. “But since this disease is so unique to the individual, you don’t want to try to stage people so they come up with a preconceived notion of what might happen. It can be used as a guide, but we should always think about ways that we can connect with people no matter what stage they’re in.”

Fazio says that while the final stage may differ for everyone, some of the common symptoms include being unable to connect with other people or the environment, growing more forgetful and becoming withdrawn. These symptoms may start in the middle stage, but become progressively worse in end stage.

The patient may also completely lose the ability to speak or communicate, according to Mayo Clinic. While your loved one may still say certain words or phrases, they may no longer be able to converse like you once used to.