It may take years for your senior to get to end-stage dementia. The cognitive changes that she experiences over that time are still difficult to watch. Ideally, you would make end-of-life decisions when your senior is still able to participate in those discussions, but that’s not always possible.
Here are some ways you can tell that the end stages are closer than you think.
She’s Unable to Eat or to Swallow
Eating problems make it difficult for your elderly family member to get the nutrients that she needs, even in the last few weeks of her life. Whether she’s having difficulty chewing or swallowing, you might need to rethink what nutrition looks like for her. Your family member might also have lost interest in food at all, even her favorites. Serving meals at a regular time every day can help, as can reducing stimuli during mealtimes.
She’s Not Ambulatory
As your elderly family member loses mobility, she may stop getting around on her own at all. She might become bedridden, especially in the latter stages of dementia. Physical therapy can help her to keep from losing too much flexibility in her legs and arms. It can also help to prevent the development of bedsores as she spends more time in bed.
She’s Unable to Speak
Cognitive changes make it more and more difficult for your senior to communicate. Up to this point, though, she might have still been speaking to some degree. As she edges closer to the end of her life, she may start to lose the ability to form speech. That doesn’t mean that she won’t respond to you in some ways, though. She might be able to indicate preferences, but that can also become something she loses closer to passing away.
She Needs Help with Most Daily Activities
As your elderly family member’s health continues to decline, you’re likely to find that she’s needing more and more assistance with activities of daily living. She may need someone to feed her, for instance, when she was doing this on her own. Or she may need help with all aspects of personal care when she was handling some of those tasks on her own.
Hospice care services can help you and other family members to understand when your senior is getting even closer to the end of her life. That can help you all to prepare mentally and emotionally for the transition that is rapidly approaching for your elderly family member.