Memory Care Hospice
When a loved one faces the end stages of advanced dementia, family members and caregivers often feel overwhelmed trying to care for a relative who may not recognize them or remember important details about major care decisions. Hospice care can help ensure a high quality of life during those final months or weeks of life and ease family caretakers’ burden. For individuals with alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia, hospice care includes attention to both the symptoms of the illness and the patient’s emotional state.
Quality Care for Dementia Patients
Dementia patients have specific needs, and family caregivers may have trouble providing the type of long-term care or end-of-life care that a parent or another older relative with alzheimer’s disease requires. Health care workers and volunteers who have experience working with dementia patients know how to help families navigate the course of the disease.
Hospice care is intended for patients with a terminal illness who have chosen to end treatment, and it puts the focus on the quality of life and comfort care. Palliative care is designed for patients who may be continuing treatment, but need assistance with symptom management, maintaining a high quality of life, and reducing family caregivers’ burden. For dementia patients, quality care often includes medication to help ease disease symptoms. Still, medication decisions can be more complicated for these patients than for patients without memory loss or mental confusion.
Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias often leave patients unable to express their wishes about care decisions. Patients may also be unable to understand why they’re experiencing side effects or why specific medications are necessary. Patients with dementia sometimes resist taking medication. Some families opt to forgo drugs that relieve pain or other symptoms because of these concerns. A hospice care team can help provide alternative options, such as music therapy or ergonomic positioning, to help ease symptoms that aren’t being treated with medication.
Choosing Hospice Care for End-Stage Dementia
Many families wonder when to put a dementia patient into hospice or palliative care. Patients with dementia may be unable to express their level of pain or may experience confusion about where they are and what’s happening, which can leave family members responsible for making major health decisions for the patient.
While hospice care is typically considered end-of-life care, determining the illness stage can be complicated when it comes to patients with dementia. It’s hard to decide on the life expectancy of a dementia patient. The memory journey is unique to each individual. Many insurance providers and Medicare use the Reisberg Functional Assessment Staging (FAST) scale to determine eligibility for hospice care for someone with dementia. An older adult with a FAST scale ranking of 7 indicates severe dementia, along with a co-occurring condition, such as extreme weight loss, pressure ulcers, COPD, or pneumonia, is typically considered eligible for hospice care. Some symptoms exhibited by someone with severe dementia that warrants a FAST ranking of 7 includes:
Inability to walk without assistance
Inability to use the restroom without assistance
Inability to complete daily tasks, such as eating and getting dressed, without help
Incontinence of the bowel or bladder
Inability to speak clearly or express thoughts and opinions
Keeping Patients With Alzheimer’s Disease Safe
Safety is an essential aspect of hospice care for a patient with dementia. Caregivers who understand how dementia affects older adults can help families create a safe, secure home environment. Patients with dementia may be prone to wandering out of the home or forgetting where they are and what they’re doing. A senior with dementia may be more prone to falls and accidents, especially when trying to complete tasks independently. For many dementia patients, being in a familiar environment can help ease confusion and reduce mental stress. Hospice providers provide services wherever the patient is, including the person’s home or an assisted living facility, so the patient remains in familiar surroundings.
The hospice care team may also be able to make suggestions for arranging the home environment to better support the dementia patient. This could include providing reliable lighting, removing access to potentially dangerous appliances, and making the home easier to navigate. Having hospice staff available to help with everyday tasks can also help prevent accidents and make the patient’s living area a safe, comfortable space. Additionally, hospice care workers can assist families in establishing a consistent routine to reduce confusion and stress. Routines are especially important for people with memory loss. Reliable schedules and routines may also reduce frustration, aggression, and restlessness in the dementia patient, easing some of the caregiving’s burden.
Family Support After an Alzheimer’s Disease Diagnosis
Because caregiving can be overwhelming, family members serving as caregivers may experience burnout or extreme stress. Part of hospice care includes family support. This might consist of counseling to help family caregivers work through the emotional stress of dealing with a loved one experiencing memory loss and mood swings. Hospice providers can also help families understand what to expect as dementia progresses and offer respite care to give family caregivers a break.
Finding Hospice and Palliative Care for Your Loved One
A hospice care plan is typically created in consultation with the patient’s family and regular health care provider to ensure coordinated care. Ultimately, hospice services focus on comfort care, so individual patients get services tailored specifically to their needs. Social workers who are part of the hospice team can help your family connect to the specific services you need, and a hospice nurse can provide hands-on care and symptom management. The hospice team may also include physical therapists, counselors, clergy members, and volunteers who all take on different roles in helping the patient remain comfortable and maintain dignity toward the end of life.
Suppose you’re searching for hospice care for a patient who’s been diagnosed with alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, in that case, Three Oaks Hospice provides caring, compassionate home care that takes into account memory loss and the emotional stress of dealing with a severe illness. Medicaid or Medicare may cover hospice services, and some insurance plans offer hospice benefits, so you should check with your provider to determine coverage options.