Hospice care is the form of care given to patients with a life expectancy of fewer than six months. Alzheimer’s disease progress at varying rates depending on each individual, so it could be difficult to determine their life expectancy. However, during the late stages of the disease, it’s important for the family to initiate the discussion on the option of hospice care with their doctor.
Alzheimer’s patients usually require more skilled and experienced Hospice specialists than an average hospice ward. They’re to discuss with the families what to expect during the end stages of the disease and provide support throughout the whole process. Some of the symptoms that Alzheimer’s may present with that will suggest hospice care include; serious forms of infection or multiple episodes of pneumonia, severe weight loss of greater than 10% in the space of 6months, and multiple pressure ulcers that are difficult to heal.
Loved ones of a patient with end stages of dementia with a life expectancy of greater than six months may also take advantage of palliative care, even before the patient qualifies for hospice services. Palliative care works hand in hand with treatment as provided by a healthcare specialist, so other co-morbidities are treated alongside Alzheimer’s disease.
WHEN AN ALZHEIMER’S PATIENT NEEDS HOSPICE CARE
The early stages of Alzheimer’s usually begin with difficulty recalling past events and eventually progress to speech impairment, recalling familiar names and faces, difficulty walking, and aggressive behaviors. The final stages involve the inability to swallow and loss of appetite, long hours of sleep, and being curled up in bed.
STAGES OF ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE
Stage 1: Patient still seems normal, and function is intact
Stage 2: There’s a mild decline in function, but the patient still looks normal
Stage 3: This is the early stage of Alzheimer, and daily activities are affected
Stage 4: This is mild Alzheimer’s stage, and the patient requires assistance in carrying out daily activities
Stage 5: This is a moderate Alzheimer’s stage, and the patient is unable to dress.
Stage 6: Moderately severe Alzheimer’s, Patient cannot carry out most tasks by themselves and are usually incontinent.
Stage 7: Severe Alzheimer’s, There is a marked decline in function as the patient is unable to either smile, sit up or walk on their own.
Once symptoms become increasingly difficult for caregivers to handle, it is pertinent that the patient is referred to a hospice provider. Usually, hospice providers give individualized care to their patients. There is a general assessment of the patients’ symptoms and condition to ascertain the required services. Hospice providers assist families by providing the medical supplies and equipment required for treating the patient. They also offer counsel to families in creating routines that increase the comfort of the patient. They also help the family members in grief management after the death of their loved ones.
It is important to note that as a result of the difficulty in determining the exact time an Alzheimer’s patient would require hospice, several Alzheimer’s patients die without the comfort and better family satisfaction that comes with hospice care.
ADVANTAGES OF HOSPICE CARE FOR ALZHEIMER’S PATIENTS.
The major benefit of hospice care is the overall improvement in quality of life by offering comfort and pain control for the underlying factors of the disease process. Hospice care provides a number of sensory connections like sight, hearing, and touch with the aim of ensuring the comfortability of the patient. They also employ music as a tool for relaxation and massage, which is often soothing, particularly for night periods as they tend to get restless.
Medications are another essential part of hospice care. Medications are usually required for pain and symptoms to relieve or prevent symptoms from getting or easing their discomfort. Some of the hospice services are directed towards the caregivers to prevent them from potential burnout and depression, which can accompany caring for a loved one which in itself is very stressful.
It is imperative to begin early discussions with your doctor about hospice care once a loved one has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. This will enable strict monitoring of symptoms in order to ascertain the appropriate time the patient will require the services of Hospice providers.
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