The Lessons of End Stage Dementia: What It Means When Lucidity Returns
Updated: May 17
Even as memory loss and confusion escalate throughout end stage dementia, there is a fascinating and welcome reprieve that frequently occurs. Formerly termed “terminal lucidity,” it’s more commonly now known as “paradoxical lucidity." It represents a sudden, short-term regaining of clarity to an almost pre-dementia state of mind. During this time, the effects can consist of nonverbal but emotional connections to substantial cognitive recovery.
For family members, it is a gift to be treasured. It provides an opportunity for meaningful conversations and reminiscing, together with mutual sharing of feelings and thoughts, if only for a brief period of time. For scientists, it means much more.
Dr. Basil Eldadah, supervisory medical officer in the Division of Geriatrics and Clinical Gerontology in the US National Institute on Aging, looks at the opportunities as astounding. “It gives us some pause with regard to our current theories and understanding about the nature of dementia. We’ve seen enough examples of this to be reassured that dementia can be reversed – albeit temporarily, very transiently – nevertheless, it does reverse. And so the question then is how.”
There are currently six research projects underway to answer that very question, and to gain more detailed insight to the condition and examine future therapeutic approaches. Based on initial data from the studies, it’s clear that it is an even more frequent phenomenon than realized previously. Dr. Sam Parnia, head researcher and critical care physician, pulmonologist, and associate professor of medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center says, “If you talk to hospice nurses and palliative care doctors, they all know about this. But no one’s ever studied it properly because no one ever thought anyone would take it seriously enough. So what I wanted to do is to help move this into the scientific realm.”
Education for family members caring for a loved one with Alzheimer's is also key. It is essential to recognize that this temporary clarity may arise, allowing for the chance to reconnect with the older adult, while recognizing that it is not indicative of improvement in his/her condition.
For more dementia care resources and educational materials, connect with The Care Company. We are also always available to provide customized in-home dementia care to make life the best it can be for those with Alzheimer's disease together with the families who love them. Our services include:
Memory-stimulating games, activities, conversations, and reminiscing
Specialized, compassionate help with the distinctive challenges of dementia, such as aggression, wandering, sundowning, and much more
Help with safe bathing along with other personal care needs
Meals and household chores to enable family members to relish more quality time with the older adult they love