Alzheimer's and Dementia Care
Hospice care may be appropriate for some persons in the severe stage of Alzheimer's disease or other dementias. When it is time to make the hospice decision, the family plays an important role in working with the doctor, since the individual will not be able to give informed consent. The family (or other legal decision-maker) should consider the following:
- The patient's wishes for end-of-life care: Did your loved one make a Living Will or Advance Directive that describes the type of care he or she would want in the last months of life? If not, did he or she ever discuss these issues with the family?
- The patient's preferences for residence at the end of life: Did your relative say that he or she wanted to remain home at the end of life rather than moving to an assisted living facility or nursing home? If so, hospice might provide the combination of services necessary to make that possible.
Discuss these matters with the doctor, and contact a local hospice program if you have further questions about whether hospice would be appropriate for your relative with Alzheimer's disease or other dementia.
A hospice program offers many benefits for patients:
- An individualized plan of care, tailored to meet the person's unique needs.
- The option to remain at home as long as possible, with a wide array of services.
- A strong emphasis on safety, comfort and support for the patient.
Hospice offers much to the family caregiver as well:
- Respite care so families can take a break from caregiving
- Volunteers assigned to the family to help with errands, just to lend an ear or give a hug, stay with patient while the caregiver goes to lunch, shopping, etc.
- Counseling for the family – this includes spiritual counseling as well as advice on practical matters related to caregiving
- Bereavement support to help the family through the period of mourning
- Support and assistance from a team of professionals who consider the patient and the family to be the most important members of the team.
Remember that hospice care is for people whose doctor certifies that their life expectancy is six months or less. Therefore, hospice is not appropriate for persons in the mild or moderate stages of Alzheimer's disease or other dementias. For these individuals, consider adult day services or assisted living.