According to a National Geographic article, the human brain is “more complex than any other known structure in the universe.” It’s Mission Control for everything we do—from voluntary movement to the involuntary operations of our organs…from everyday decision-making to the most complex emotions and thoughts…from holding our memories to making dreams. So when something goes wrong due to disease or injury, the impact can be devastating.

June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month, a time when education usually focuses on Alzheimer’s disease as it is the cause of 60 to 80 percent of all dementia cases. Today, nearly 5.8 million Americans live with the disease.

While perhaps the most well-known, Alzheimer’s is only one cause of dementia.

Dementia is actually not a disease, but a term that covers a wide range of symptoms including problems with memory, thinking, and behavior. In addition to Alzheimer’s, dementia can also result from other brain diseases including Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease, or a vascular disease that causes multiple strokes. Dementia may also occur due to other advanced illnesses such as heart disease and COPD.

Whatever the cause, the progression of dementia differs for each individual—sometimes a person will show little evidence of the disease for years, while others decline rapidly. Nevertheless, nearly every dementia patient will need to transition to end-of-life care at some point. In fact, dementia accounts for nearly one in every five hospice admissions (18 percent), according to the latest data from the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization.

Capital Caring Health’s (CCH) care and support can make a difference for patients with dementia when the time is right. The goal of palliative and hospice care is to bring the greatest level of comfort to both patients and families, creating the best quality of life possible. Our care team focuses on alleviating pain and emotional distress, while meeting social and spiritual needs with counseling and support.

CCH staff is specially trained to address common problems and symptoms that often occur with dementia, and know how to “read” patients to identify visible signs of pain and discomfort. By also teaching family members and caregivers how to recognize these indicators, we work together to make sure patients are comfortable even when no longer able to verbally express themselves. Care team members also help families understand how to best manage care, what to expect in the late stages of a condition, and how to provide support through the last phase of life.

Once a diagnosis of a degenerative brain condition has been made, certain symptoms may indicate that it’s time to consider palliative or hospice care. Chief among them are when the patient:

  • Can only say a few words
  • Can no longer walk and may be bed-bound
  • Is totally dependent on others for eating, dressing, and grooming
  • Shows signs of severe anxiety

Once palliative or hospice care is selected, Capital Caring Health creates a supportive and comforting care plan for your unique situation addressing medical, emotional, social, and spiritual needs. The care team works with the patient, family members, and caregivers as well as the other medical providers already involved. We are available 24/7 to answer questions, provide support, and help control patient symptoms at home.

As a result of hospice specialized care and attention, dementia patients find the peaceful environment they need and respond positively. Managing symptoms before a situation becomes acute may also help prevent frequent trips to the emergency room and unnecessary hospital admissions. Research shows that Alzheimer’s patients with hospice care have better pain control, are less likely to die in a hospital, and their families have greater satisfaction with end-of-life care.

Philosophers throughout the ages have suggested our brain may hold the essence of who we are. At Capital Caring Health, we lead with both head and heart to help you and your loved one find comfort and peace, making every day the best it can be.

Click on these links to learn more about what symptoms to look for and how hospice can help with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, neurological diseases including Parkinson’s and Huntington’s or about ALS/Lou Gehrig’s Disease and other condition-specific information including heart disease and cancer.

Please call 800-869-2136 or visit capitalcaring.org for more information or to request an evaluation.