symptoms will be described, followed by a discussion of strategies to help those in the
late stage acquire proper nutrition and achieve optimal bowel and bladder function.
Approaches will also be explained that address the immobility, increased risk for illness,
and difficulty communicating pain that are characteristic of late-stage Alzheimer’s.
Next, strategies for providing comfort will be delineated, with a focus on forging
a personal connection with individuals in the late stage of Alzheimer’s disease. Finally,
because health care professionals work with caregivers and families as well as patients,
decisions that families often need to make when a relative enters late-stage Alzheimer’s
disease will be clarified so that professionals can respond appropriately during these
Symptoms of Late-Stage Alzheimer’s Disease
In the earlier stages of Alzheimer’s, the disease affects cognitive processes (e.g.,
thinking, memory, orientation, judgment) and behavior more than physical functioning.
In late-stage Alzheimer’s, the disease finally begins significantly affecting parts of the
brain that control bodily systems such as motor coordination, bowel and bladder function,
and even breathing. The late stage of Alzheimer’s disease usually requires rigorous,
around-the-clock care; the stage can last from several weeks to several years. The
symptoms of late-stage Alzheimer’s disease often include:
Increased vulnerability to infections, such as pneumonia and the flu
Difficulty walking and moving – eventually, the person becomes chair-bound or
Loss of the ability to communication through words
Difficulty swallowing and eating