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Recognizing Pain in Late-Stage Alzheimer’s Disease

While it is important to keep individuals comfortable during late-stage

Alzheimer’s, this can be challenging because the disease affects communication in such a

way that it is harder for those in pain to indicate that they are uncomfortable. There are

three ways to recognize pain in late-stage Alzheimer’s disease:

  • Physical indicators. If a patient with late-stage Alzheimer’s is showing physical symptoms such as dry or pale gums, sores in the mouth, pale or flushed skin, vomiting, or swelling of any body part, there is a good chance that illness and/or an infection are present, making the patient uncomfortable.

  • Behavioral indicators. Individuals with late-stage Alzheimer’s may show sudden changes in behavior when they are in pain, such as agitation, combativeness, or insomnia.

  • Nonverbal communication. Even though individuals in late-stage Alzheimer’s cannot communicate effectively through words, they may still indicate that they are in pain through their facial expressions (e.g., grimaces), gestures (e.g., pointing to a body part), or vocal sounds (e.g., groaning).

Providing Comfort through a Personal Connection with the Person with Late-Stage Alzheimer’s Disease

When late-stage Alzheimer’s reduces a person’s ability to communicate through

words, it can seem futile to try to make a connection with the person. However, those

with late-stage Alzheimer’s can still experience the world through senses such as touch,

smell, sound, and sight. It is essential to continue providing comfort to those with late-

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