My dad seems to have lost his spirit, how long does he have left?

1 answer | Last updated: Sep 14, 2017
Jakeharmstrong asked...

I have an 88 year-old father with dementia and his stools are becoming a constent drip. He is slowing down and seems to have lost his spirit as he allows me to wipe him and clean him up and has become more docile. How do you assess and approximate time left?

Expert Answers

Joanne Koenig Coste is a nationally recognized expert on Alzheimer's care and an outspoken advocate for patient and family care. She is the author of Learning to Speak Alzheimer's. Also, she currently is in private practice as an Alzheimer's family therapist. Ms. Koenig Coste also serves as President of Alzheimer Consulting Associates, implementing state-of-the-art Alzheimer care throughout the United States.

Assessing how much time a dementia patient has left to live is an almost impossible task. Just as we are told at the beginning of the dementia journey that the length of illness can last from "two to twenty years" so too is the vague reported length of this final chapter.

In the last stage of a progressive neurological disease such as Alzheimer's the following occurences are fairly normal: * The patient is less physically expressive and more docile.
* Language is reduced to only a few (if any) sounds * The patient is in need of total care with activities of daily living (ADL) such as bathing, dressing, eating, and toileting * The ability to swallow is one of the final losses.

Predicting how long each of these manifesta- tions will last or when each will occur is not as clear as predicting that each will happen near the end of his life. It is important to realize that each patient is unique and the course of illness will be too. Comparing individuals is therefore quite difficult.

Love him for the time you have remaining and cherish the differences. Remember to take care of you!