When You Feel Helpless During End-Stage Alzheimer's: 6 Things That Help

It can be hard not to feel a certain amount of helplessness as you witness your loved one's body slowly shut down during end-stage Alzheimer's. A caregiver's impulse to do something is strong, even when there's little beyond daily care and comfort measures that can be performed. But the sad reality is that there's nothing you can do to stop the process.

What helps:

  • Realize that there's both a time for action and a time for inaction. Both belong in the ebb and flow of life.

  • Allow yourself a little grace by acknowledging what you have done in the past.

  • Remember that, while you may be the world's most loving spouse or caring child, you're not God. Neither is your loved one's doctor. There comes a point where mere humans can no longer help -- at least not in the curative sense.

  • Focus on helping by comforting and cherishing. Providing comfort is a huge benefit to someone whose body is shutting down. You can console his or her physical self while also comforting the emotional self. Talk about how you feel and how much you love and will miss the person.

  • Allow yourself to grieve. Some experts in hospice care say that our task as caregivers switches at the end of life; you may feel helpless about being able to help your loved one, but embracing grief -- even before death, when it's known as anticipatory grief -- is a form of action you can take now that helps you.

  • Don't take whatever emotions you're experiencing to be a sign of weakness or not caring. You may feel helpless in the moment, but simply having that feeling actually says a lot about your true heart. You couldn't feel such anguish if you didn't care so much.


Paula Spencer Scott

Paula Spencer Scott is the author of Surviving Alzheimer's: Practical Tips and Soul-Saving Wisdom for Caregivers and much of the Alzheimer's and caregiving content on Caring. See full bio