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Signs & symptoms of end-stage dementia

Updated July 19, 2017

Dementia is a term that refers to a group of symptoms that are caused by illnesses and conditions that affect the brain. Diseases such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's disease, and stroke, and toxic reactions to drugs and alcohol can cause dementia. Those with dementia may experience memory loss, cognitive decline, behavioural disturbances, hallucinations and delusions. End-stage dementia refers to the terminal phase of severe dementia. End-stage dementia patients have limited cognitive abilities and can no longer care for themselves.

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Those with end-stage dementia may experience a loss of psychomotor capability, and not be able to perform daily tasks. An end-stage dementia patient may require assistance getting dressed, walking, and bathing. The patient may be incontinent. He may be unable to communicate well, display a very limited vocabulary, or have speech that is unintelligible. Someone with end-stage dementia may be confused and not recognise immediate family members.


According to a 2009 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, end-stage dementia patients are at an increased risk of certain diseases, contributing to the approximate six-month mortality rate. An end-stage dementia patient may be at particular risk for developing pneumonia, and ulcers. He may also be at risk of urinary tract infections and septicaemia, which is a life-threatening infection caused by bacteria in the blood. Patients may become dehydrated and experience pronounced weight loss. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, eating problems are a common feature of end-stage dementia.


End-stage dementia patients lose weight for a variety of reasons. According to alzbrain.org, feeding apraxia, which occurs when an end-stage dementia patient forgets how to chew and swallow, is common and can interfere with a patient consuming enough food. Patients may lose the will to eat due to depression or impaired motor skills. Those with end-stage dementia may also be at an increased risk for aspiration, which occurs when food is inhaled into the upper air passage.


According to HelpGuide.org, those with in the final stage of dementia may suffer from pain. The end-stage dementia patient may not be able to communicate that she is in pain due to diminished language capabilities. Caregivers may have to respond to non-verbal cues that the patient is experiencing pain. According to research published in the journal Age and Aging, those with end-stage dementia may benefit from palliative care. Palliative care refers to the treatment of symptoms without curing the disease or condition. Palliative care may help someone with end-stage dementia be comfortable.

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About the Author

Keith Vaughn is an artist and writer in Asheville, NC. Vaughn regularly writes essays and fine art reviews for Bees And Trees Blog. He also paints and exhibits his work regularly. He holds a Master of Fine Arts from the Cranbrook Academy of Art.

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