The Last Stages of Alzheimer's: Oral Health
Caring for a loved one who is living with dementia can be an incredibly challenging experience as the disease progresses and its symptoms worsen. But what many people may not realize is that on top of managing day-to-day basics, such as eating and drinking properly, proper oral hygiene also needs to be taken into account.
Oral hygiene is important for those with dementia for several reasons:1,2
- It encourages easier chewing, swallowing, and digestion of food
- It helps prevent bad breath, which is beneficial for social interactions between the person and their caregivers
- It's an effective way to reduce infection or gum disease that can lead to further health complications
It may not seem like much, but taking care of your loved ones' oral health will keep them healthy and comfortable in their remaining years. Let's explore in more detail the importance of oral hygiene.
The impact of dental health on overall wellness
The importance of oral hygiene for a loved one with dementia should never be overlooked. The overall wellness of a person largely depends on their dental health and any deterioration in oral health can have serious consequences.3
Poor dental health can result in infections and malnutrition. To ensure that your loved one with dementia is comfortable and able to maintain good dental healthcare, it is important to brush their teeth twice daily and make sure they see a dentist regularly. Cleaning dentures properly should also be a priority. That's because bacteria can accumulate on dentures if not cleaned regularly and contribute to even further deterioration of overall dental health.4,5
The impact of proper dental health on a person's general well-being cannot be stressed enough!
Maintaining oral hygiene in the last stages of dementia
When caring for someone with dementia in their last stages, providing them with good dental care can be a challenge. Oral hygiene may need to be checked more frequently if they cannot do it themselves. Here are some tips that I used for maintaining my mom's oral health during her last stages of dementia:
- I encouraged regular brushing and flossing as much as possible — even when my mom could not do it herself.
- I regularly inspected her mouth for signs of infection or decay. I took note of anything that stood out and brought it up with my mom's hospice doctor and dentist.
- I monitored her diet to ensure that she was eating enough nutrient-rich foods that would promote healthy gum tissue.
- I scheduled her hospice team to perform regular checkups and cleanings during their at-home visits.
Caring for a loved one with dementia during the last stages can be a difficult but rewarding experience. Paying attention to our loved one's oral hygiene needs in the last stages of dementia may be difficult as they become resistant to taking care of themselves in this area, but it is incredibly important.
Supporting oral health in the late stages of Alzheimer's
Fortunately, there are many ways to ensure your loved one remains comfortable while meeting all of their dental health needs. Paying attention to regular brushing and flossing, cleaning dentures daily, and scheduling checkups with the dentist are all key steps toward keeping them safe and healthy.
Taking the initiative now will help you provide the best possible care for your loved one during tumultuous times. Caring for someone with dementia comes with its challenges, but prioritizing their oral hygiene is an easy way to make a world of difference in their comfort.
Which, if any, of the following most often trigger agitation in your loved one living with Alzheimer's disease?