Mental and physical abilities in the later stages

As dementia progresses to the later stages, people may have difficulties concentrating and remaining mobile.

How dementia affects concentration, planning and organisation

The person with dementia may develop increasing difficulties with other mental abilities, such as concentrating, planning and organising. For instance, they may only be able to carry out simple activities, or not be able to concentrate for too long.

They may be increasingly disorientated and have difficulties recognising where they are. They may have a limited understanding of time.

Meaningful activities 

The person with dementia may still get enjoyment from past hobbies, interests and activities. Find opportunities to make these meaningful. This could be doing anything that the person benefits from whether this is enjoyment, fulfilment or comfort.

Even if they are restricted with what they can manage, they can still enjoy the feelings and sensations of an activity. For example, they may enjoy the feel of wool even if they can no longer knit; or enjoy listening to favourite songs even if they can’t sing along.

In the later stages, people may respond more to things that stimulate their senses (sight, hearing, smell, touch and taste), than to words. Think of ways to stimulate the person’s senses and help with how they feel in that moment. For example, they may enjoy stroking a pet, tasting their favourite food or looking at familiar photos.

How dementia affects physical health

Mobility

Dementia is likely to have a big physical impact on the person in the later stages of the condition. They may gradually lose their ability to walk, stand or get themselves up from the chair or bed. They may also be more likely to fall. These problems can be caused by dementia, medication, other medical conditions (for example stroke), sight loss, balance problems and the environment. However, not all people will have problems with mobility.

Pressure ulcers

Many people with dementia (especially in the later stages) find themselves staying in one position for a long time (such as sitting in a chair) and not moving around much.

This means they are at risk of pressure ulcers (bedsores). If you notice a pressure ulcer or have concerns speak to the GP or community nurse. They can be easy to prevent early on, but if they go unnoticed they can get worse and become painful and infected. 

Infections and blood clots

As a person’s mobility decreases they are also at risk of infections and blood clots. The person should be supported and encouraged to move around as much as they are able, for example through support to walk or chair-based exercises. An occupational therapist or physiotherapist can help with this.

Ask for advice on the best ways to support the person to move without injuring themselves. Speak to the GP, or a community nurse, occupational therapist or physiotherapist for more advice. An occupational therapist can give advice about equipment and adaptations to help with mobility.

Exercise in the later stages of dementia

Physical activity can be beneficial in the later stages of dementia. Read our advice on staying mobile and active if it is possible.

Read our advice
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