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What Are the Final Stages of Dementia Before Death?

October 20, 2023

The last stages of life for a dementia patient are challenging for everyone involved, even with the help of resources made for dementia, such as memory care facilities. Understanding the progressive stages of dementia, as well as the signs that someone’s life is coming to an end, are difficult but important steps to effectively proceeding through this tough time.

How Does Dementia Cause Death?

While dementia is not directly a cause of death, it leads to a general decline in individuals’ health and functioning, including mental and physical impairment and an increased risk of complications that can ultimately lead to someone’s passing. Advancing in stages, dementia starts with light cognitive impairment and progresses to the point where individuals can become bedridden, incapable of most decision-making, and more prone to infections due to an impaired immune system. 

What Are the Signs That Vascular Dementia Is Getting Worse?

Vascular dementia, which is the second most common form of dementia (after Alzheimer’s), causes cognitive decline due to impaired blood flow to an individual’s brain. Here are some indications that vascular dementia is getting worse for someone:

  • Increased cognitive decline. A notable decline in memory and thinking capabilities is a sign that dementia is progressing in an individual. 
  • Increased confusion and difficulty with communication. Relatedly, more disorientation, confusion, and difficulty using language to communicate with friends and family are signs of worsening symptoms. 
  • Increased need for assistance with ADLs. As vascular dementia progresses, patients will begin to rely more on family members and caregivers for support, especially with their activities of daily living (ADLs) and other everyday tasks.

What Stage Is End-Stage Dementia?

There are generally thought to be seven stages of dementia, ranging from no cognitive decline to early stage to mid- and late-stage and culminating in end-stage. Regardless of the type of dementia, the “end-stage” refers to when an individual’s dementia has progressed to its most advanced state and their life is approaching its end. End-stage dementia is usually characterized by a profound decline in cognitive functioning, severe functional impairment, often including limited mobility, and a surge in behavioral and psychological symptoms.

What Are the Last Signs of Dementia Before Death? 

The symptoms of dementia that indicate a closeness to death will vary from individual to individual as the condition affects everyone differently. That being said, here are some common indicators often observed in the later stages of dementia:

  • Extreme cognitive decline. Individuals will experience increased memory loss and cognitive decline, such as being incapable of recognizing even their close family members.
  • Increased communication difficulties. Patients may struggle more to speak and communicate effectively. 
  • Immobility and incontinence. Loss of bladder control and ambulatory ability are also common in the later stages of dementia.
  • Difficulty swallowing and weight loss. Many dementia patients begin to struggle with swallowing. This, paired with a reduced appetite and general difficulty eating, may lead to significant weight loss for late-stage dementia patients.
  • Non-responsiveness. Individuals can sometimes lose the ability to convey their emotions and may generally appear unresponsive.

 At What Stage of Dementia Is Palliative Care Appropriate?

Palliative care is a form of medical care designed for people experiencing serious illnesses such as cancer or dementia and can be provided alongside other kinds of care. It is meant to enhance a person’s care by focusing on enhancing their quality of life. Palliative care can be appropriate in multiple stages of dementia, from early stages (helping individuals and family members better understand diagnosis and treatment options) to late stages (providing compassionate pain management and care toward the end stages of life).

How Story Cottage Can Help

Whatever stage of dementia your loved one is experiencing, tailored memory care services can be extremely beneficial for their well-being and care. Schedule a visit at our two beautiful locations in Indianapolis and Carmel and learn how our services are unique today by scheduling a complimentary consultation online or at 317-449-5696.