Palliative Care For Dementia Patients: What Is It?

Providing medical care and attention becomes increasingly difficult as patients approach the later stages of dementia. Family caregivers might find themselves facing more complex needs. A terminally ill advanced dementia patient no longer has the cognitive function to walk, eat, or even speak, so they'll need someone to advocate for their needs.

Those who take care of dementia-stricken family members sacrifice a lot to provide a higher quality of life for their loved ones. You'll need to advance care planning tactics effectively if you wish to maintain long-term care quality. 

However, don't research life-prolonging treatments alone. Instead, use this guide to understand palliative care for dementia patients. Know when your aging relative might need it!

How To Get Palliative Care

What is palliative care for dementia, and when should people with dementia undergo it? Palliative care refers to the symptom management and hospice services provided to patients with a terminal illness—and in this case, advanced dementia.

Most patients only undergo it after receiving a late-stage dementia diagnosis. Despite their dementia, living for a few more years is highly possible, so their family members focus on making them feel comfortable by alleviating their most distressing symptoms.

If you have been in charge of your dementia-stricken loved one since their early stages, then you'll likely have some control over when to get palliative care. If anything, you have first-hand knowledge of their disease progression.

However, you don't have to make the decision alone. To ensure that you make the best treatment and therapeutic decisions, we urge asking your family's neurologist and psychiatrist, among other specialists, the following questions:

  • Does dementia qualify for palliative care? 

Familiarize yourself with the symptoms that late-stage and moderate dementia apart.

  • Do you recommend palliative care? 

Ask your doctor for a straightforward recommendation on whether your loved one should already get palliative or hospice care services.

  • Who will make up the palliative care team? 

People with dementia can receive palliative care in a hospital, skilled nursing facility, or their own home.

Making Medical Decisions For Dementia Patients

As we mentioned above, people with dementia can't express themselves. Cognitive impairment impedes speech capabilities, so they'll need trusted family caregivers and loved ones to advocate for their needs. You'll serve as their voice.

Note that the person's quality of life heavily depends on the treatment options they get during the later stages of their condition. Some of the worst symptoms keep patients up at night. If you want to help them live comfortably, ensure that they have advanced care planning specialists available 24/7 for their daily needs.

Palliative Care For Advanced Alzheimers And Dementia

Although many patients don't realize they have Alzheimer's disease and dementia, they still experience mental health complications. Cognitive impairment is physically, emotionally, and mentally draining. However, you can support your dementia-stricken loved ones during these trying times by:

  • Providing physical contact: Research the activities patients in palliative and hospice care might enjoy. Remember, they don't get much human interaction, and some haven't even had a hug in years. 
  • Setting a comforting mood: Make an effort to create a comfortable, relaxing living space for your dementia-stricken loved one.
  • Playing music on the low: Songs with a nostalgic, sentimental vibe yield emotional relief among dementia patients.
  • Being present: You'd be surprised at how big of an impact being there with them has on patients in palliative and hospice care.

Where To Get Palliative Care For Dementia Patients In The U.S.

Seeing all the different locations that offer comfort care for dementia patients might make your head spin. Don't worry—we can help you jumpstart your research. To help families understand the best palliative care and hospice services specialists for their loved ones, we made a brief list of the best healthcare providers focused on dementia.

Vitas Healthcare

Vitas Health has been operating for over four decades. If your loved one already qualifies for palliative or hospice care, you can look into their Continuous Care Program. That way, the patient has access to all-day bedside care.

Alzheimer’s Los Angeles Hospice And Palliative Care

Alzheimer’s Los Angeles was founded in the early 1980s. Its core mission focuses on advocating for the needs of cognitively impaired seniors, so you can expect top-notch palliative and hospice care. The organization also supports patients' families. It teaches them how to be emotionally present for their dementia-stricken loved ones and make them feel comfortable.

Trinity Care Hospice

The Trinity Care Hospice division formed a small team in the late 70s. However, as its operations grew, it opened five more locations—all of which focus on providing hospice care for patients with chronic diseases. Note that it only caters to patients in the later stages of their condition.

Medserv Hospice Inc. 

Medserv Hospice Inc. focuses on helping seniors. Its company description states that most of its Medicaid beneficiaries are around 80 years old, and many of them probably have cognitive impairment. However, this division only focuses on terminally ill patients.

Frequently Asked Questions About Palliative Care

Where To Get Palliative Care For Dementia Patients

Do you still find the general dementia palliative care guidelines confusing? Check out some of the most common questions first-timers ask when differentiating between palliative and hospice care for advanced dementia patients.

How long does the final stage of dementia last?

A person with dementia can still live one to three more years even after the condition progresses to its advanced stages. However, they'll need 24/7 dementia caregivers. Since these patients can no longer speak coherently, it’s best for a trusted caregiver or family member to advocate for them.

Is palliative care the same as end-of-life care?

Palliative care and dementia end-of-life care are different. Although palliative care also includes end-of-life care techniques for terminally ill patients, it primarily focuses on symptom alleviation and pain management during the advanced stages of dementia. Overall, dementia palliative care patients aren't necessarily dying.

What are the final stages of dementia before death?

Severe dementia patients undergoing palliative or hospice care can no longer function alone. They need help with eating, bathing, and toileting, among other everyday tasks. In most cases, the hospice team evaluates patient capacity to assess their exact, daily, and physical needs.

Overall, dementia palliative care aims to improve the quality of life among advanced dementia patients. It focuses on symptom management. Since the disease has progressed significantly, health professionals focus on comfort care for dementia patients instead of exhausting treatment options.

However, know that palliative care doesn't automatically lead to death. Even if various other symptoms have already emerged, one's life expectancy could still exceed several years. Palliative care for dementia patients can go on indefinitely. To learn more about dementia care activities, read on through our useful resources at Senior Strong.

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