Lots of times we call these folks “dependent”- people that cannot bathe themselves and require assistance from a caregiver. But if you were to break down the later stages of dementia into a series of abilities that decline over time, you might see the difference between significant assistance and total dependence.
Take a look at the breakdown of Late to End Stage Dementia according to the Allen Cognitive Scale
Although each of these skills is nothing more than a subtle shift in the degree of functional dependence, they are considered milestones in child development. If you were to invert the scale and apply it to a baby, you’d certainly consider each step a significant accomplishment. Likewise, it is important to recognize where an adult with dementia falls along the continuum of what we casually consider “dependent” and do our best to preserve that skill.
So, for example, if you are caring for someone with late stage dementia and this person is still able to stand for showering, do not be too quick to move toward seated bathing for convenience sake. Demonstrate positions you’d like the person to assume- raise an arm, bend the head forward, pull to stand- and you’ll be doing more for the person than simply cleaning them up. You’ll be delaying total, passive dependence.