CARING FOR ALZHEIMER’S PATIENTS What You Need to Know

Despite the high awareness of Alzheimer’s these days, there’s still a lot of confusion about the condition. Briefly, Alzheimer’s is the most common and recognized form of dementia, affecting approximately 5.8 million Americans today.  Alzheimer’s is not really a disease, but a range of symptoms caused by damage to the brain cells. As such, it may spring from other diseases of the brain such as Parkinson’s Disease and Huntington’s Disease. Or, it may arise in someone who has had multiple strokes or other advanced illnesses such as heart disease or COPD.

Just as there is no single cause for Alzheimer’s, there is also no single path for how its symptoms begin and progress—everyone is different. For some people, the journey to late stage dementia may take years, while others decline quickly. A person with dementia may also appear to get better at times, only to deteriorate again.

What is known, however, is that Alzheimer’s or dementia is a primary cause for admission to hospice, accounting for 18 percent of patients—nearly one in five, according to the latest data from the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization.

Common Signs of Alzheimer’s

Memory loss is the most common symptom of Alzheimer’s and initially, may simply look like aging—forgetting what you’re doing, misplacing the house keys, and more. But when problems with memory, thinking and behavior begin to disrupt life’s daily activities, it’s time to consult a doctor.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, if at least two of the following mental functions are significantly impaired, the issue can be considered dementia:

  • Memory
  • Communication and language
  • Ability to focus and pay attention
  • Reasoning and judgment
  • Visual perception

However, Alzheimer’s can quickly progress to a point where all involved would likely benefit from extra help.  You know it’s time to consult with a hospice professional when your family member with Alzheimer’s:

  • Can say only 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

Early detection is key to giving you and your loved one the utmost benefit from treatment and the time to define what “quality of life” looks like moving forward. It also provides the opportunity to be proactive. All too often, dementia care is reduced to frequent trips to the Emergency Room and hospitalization when a problem becomes acute.

Capital Caring can provide more condition specific information and may also perform an evaluation at the request of you or your doctor. We can help determine if hospice care for Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia is the right care option and if so, the right time to enter hospice care.

Caring for the Alzheimer’s Patient

There’s no doubt caring for a loved one in their last stage of life is stressful; yet caring for someone with Alzheimer’s may add to the challenge. Your loved one may have changed into someone different from the person you have always known. He or she may experience severe agitation, stress, anxiety and emotional instability that is new to both of you and hard to deal with.

That’s where hospice can really make a difference. 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.

That’s because hospice provides comfort, warmth, kindness, and the peaceful environment dementia patients need. While certain aspects of one’s personality are lost to Alzheimer’s, emotions remain with the affected patient long afterwards. Expert hospice care responds to those emotions, and the dementia patient in turn, responds to the specialized care and attention.

In short, we help nurture what remains.

How Capital Caring Can Help You

The staff at Capital Caring are knowledgeable about common problems and symptoms that often occur in patients with advanced Alzheimer’s and dementia. This expertise serves both the person affected and family/caregivers. We can help families understand how to best manage care, what to expect in the last stages of Alzheimer’s, and also provide support through the last phase of life.

For example, Capital Caring clinicians and aides know how to “read” patients who often can no longer verbally express themselves. We can identify visible signs of pain and discomfort and teach family members and caregivers how to recognize these expressions in order to make the patient more comfortable.

Our goal is to create a supportive and comforting care plan that meets the comprehensive needs of you and your loved one as you deal with Alzheimer’s and dementia. We offer meaningful support for your unique situation, addressing medical, emotional, social, and spiritual needs including grief counseling.

Our team of hospice experts will work with you and the other medical providers you already have to provide daily assistance and care that emphasizes pain control and quality of life—as you and your loved one have defined it—in any setting your family member calls home.

Ultimately, hospice can help both you and your loved one as everyone deals with the changes that Alzheimer’s, dementia and the last phase of life bring about. Hospice is about life, and the team works to make each day as good as possible…for every patient and family in our care.