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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

difficult situations.

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

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