Dementia patients could display six symptoms nearing the end of their life

Dementia patients could display six symptoms nearing the end of their life
Dementia patients could display six symptoms nearing the end of their life

Dementia refers to a group of symptoms associated with the ongoing decline of the brain.

More common among people aged over 65, some of the signs can be mistaken for common side effects of ageing.

Well known red flags of dementia in its early stages include memory loss and difficulty with speaking and understanding.

However, it can also cause problems with movement as well as carrying out daily activities.

These symptoms often worsen in the later stages of dementia, making everyday life harder for both the affected person and their loved ones.

According to the Alzheimer’s Society, there are some specific symptoms that could actually suggest someone is nearing the end of their life.

“Some symptoms of later-stage dementia can suggest the person is reaching the final stage of their condition,” the charity says.

These are:

  • Speech limited to single words or phrases that may not make sense
  • Having a limited understanding of what is being said to them
  • Needing help with most everyday activities
  • Eating less and having difficulties swallowing
  • Bowel and bladder incontinence
  • Being unable to walk or stand, problems sitting up and becoming bed-bound.

It adds: “If a person with dementia has most or all of these symptoms, they are probably nearing the end of their life.

“They may have other problems such as being very frail, having infections that keep coming back, or pressure ulcers (bedsores).”

What to do if someone displays these symptoms

If someone experiences these symptoms it is worth speaking to a healthcare professional who will be able to explain these changes so you understand what is happening.

“Healthcare professionals can also take steps to reduce the person’s pain or distress, often using medication,” the Alzheimer’s Society says.

“If the person can’t swallow, then medication can be provided through patches on the skin, small injections or syringe pumps that provide a steady flow of medication through a small needle under the person’s skin. Speak to a GP or another health professional about this.”

However, a person might not necessarily reach the later stages of dementia before they die.

They could be living with another potentially fatal health condition which causes this.

Or a common cause of death in dementia patients is pneumonia as their immune systems are usually weakened.

If someone is within a few days or hours of dying further changes are “common”, the Alzheimer’s Society explains.

They might deteriorate more quickly than before, lose consciousness and become agitated or restless.

The charity warns they might also:

  • Be unable to swallow
  • Develop an irregular breathing pattern
  • Have a chesty or rattly sound to their breathing
  • Have cold hands and feet.

The organisation says: “These changes are part of the dying process when the person is often unaware of what is happening.”