symptoms of late stage dementia

Receiving the news that your older family member has been diagnosed with dementia is life-changing. Thinking through the many different elements and aspects associated with the disease and its impact, both now and the future, can be overwhelming.

In this three-part series, we have explored the early, middle and later stages of dementia, explaining the specific type of care needed during each stage, what family caregivers should expect, and how Home With You Senior Care, a provider of award-winning home care in Manchester and surrounding areas, can help.

Symptoms of Late Stage Dementia & Caregiving Tips to Help

In the final stage of dementia, which can last a number of years, needs become much more pronounced. It’s very important to ensure safety and comfort, something that becomes more challenging as the senior loses the ability to communicate verbally. Self-care for the caregiver is also crucial during this stage, as providing care can be both emotionally and physically draining.

Here are some of the symptoms of late stage dementia you may expect to encounter:

Greater Care Needs:

  • Assistance with walking (and then transferring when walking is no longer feasible)
  • Help with eating/drinking, as swallowing becomes difficult
  • Full-time help with personal hygiene needs
  • Watching for and addressing any physical health conditions

How You Can Help

As the senior will lose the ability to express how he/she is feeling and what is needed, you’ll need to pay close attention to nonverbal cues. Proactive care is achievable through planning of the older adult’s day, trying to stick as close to a routine as possible for mealtimes, using the bathroom, exercise/repositioning, etc. These strategies can help ensure the older adult has the highest quality of life and dignity.


  • Foster as much autonomy as possible. Provided that the older adult can still self-feed, allow plenty of extra time and serve foods that are easier to manage, such as finger foods in small, bite-size portions.
  • Ensure the senior is sitting upright during mealtime, and for a period of at least 30 minutes after eating.
  • Provide plenty of liquids. The senior may have lost his/her sense of thirst, and may even forget to drink.
  • Keep an eye on the senior’s weight. Although some amount of weight loss is to be expected with this stage, it is essential to see the doctor when weight loss is noted, for recommendations.

Using the Bathroom:

  • A bedside commode can be very helpful during this stage. Assist the senior as needed for safety, but again, let him/her manage as much of the task as possible independently.
  • Reminders to use the toilet at routine intervals throughout the day will help prevent an accident.
  • It is wise to keep adult diapers and absorbent pads on hand to use as needed, especially overnight.
  • The senior may not have a daily bowel movement. However, talk to the physician if she/he appears to be constipated, and particularly if it is been a few days since the last bowel movement.

Personal Care:

  • Keeping the older adult’s skin clean and dry is extremely important in order to avoid sores. A daily bath/shower is not essential, however. A bed bath can be just as effective.
  • Make sure the senior changes position a minimum of every two hours. If bed-bound, use pillows or foam wedges to relieve pressure, and learn proper repositioning and turning techniques.
  • Incorporate physical movement into every day, according to the physician’s recommendations and approval. Even just bending and lifting the legs and arms will help prevent joint freezing.

You can create a calming environment for the senior by focusing your efforts on sensory stimulation, for example, by:

  • Reading out loud
  • Playing or singing his/her favorite music
  • Sitting outside when weather allows
  • Smoothing scented lotion on the skin
  • Baking a well-liked treat
  • Reminiscing together through photo albums
  • Bringing in a pet therapy animal for the older adult to hold or pet

Contact the award-winning dementia care team at Home With You Senior Care, a provider of home care in Manchester and nearby areas, for additional tips to plan for the best quality of life for an older adult in late-stage dementia. We’re here around the clock to assist just as much or as little as you’d like.

Email or call us any time at 410-756-0959 for more information about our licensed home care in Manchester. Please visit our Locations Served page for information about all of the communities where we provide care.