Dementia is a broad category of brain diseases that cause long-term and often gradual decreases in a patient’s ability to think and remember in such a way that it affects their ability to function normally. Although dementia progresses slowly and the physical ailments vary between patients, it can invariably cause the brain to stop working appropriately, and thus, cause significant distress for both the patient and their caregivers. During these moments, hospice care can be a significant aid in providing both comprehensive care for the patient, and emotional support and assistance for their primary caregivers. Read more about how hospice care can attend to dementia patients and their families below.
What is Hospice Care for Dementia
Hospice Care is specialized medical care for persons living with a life-limiting illness. Hospice care focuses on providing relief from the stress and symptoms of the patient’s condition, as well as taking steps to improve their quality of life. Moreover, hospice care specialists will focus holistically on a patient’s emotional, spiritual and social needs, as well as that of their caregivers, to create a fully comprehensive healthcare program.
Hospice Care can assist patients with dementia by matching them with a team of professionals who are equipped with the skills and experience to attend to their needs. By providing an extra layer of support and working with doctors and primary caregivers, hospice care teams can provide the dynamic care dementia patients need when they need it. Hospice care can also be an invaluable resource for caregivers by providing emotional support and assistance when appropriate.
What Does Hospice Care for Dementia Patient Look Like?
While the symptoms of dementia can vary widely based on the stage of the illness, dementia generally affects areas relating to memory, visual-spatial ability, attention and problem-solving. Common symptoms include difficulty speaking, balancing, and remembering, as well as frequently forgetting where they are, issues with perception, and memory distortions. Moreover, because the patient is semi-conscious of their condition, dementia patients also commonly experience behavioral or psychological manifestations as a result of their symptoms.
These symptoms may include:
- Frequent Agitation
- Disinhibition or Impulsivity
- Delusions or Hallucinations
- Changes in sleep or appetite
First and foremost, hospice care teams work to attend to these symptoms, taking proactive steps to ease pain and provide emotional support and guidance through behavioral difficulties.
Moreover, by focusing on the patients wellbeing, hospice care teams can work with a patient’s primary physicians to coordinate care that is aligned with the patient’s (and their families) best wishes. After getting to know the patient, for example, learning their likes, dislikes, habits, physical abilities and moods, the hospice care team can work with doctors to create customized treatment plans tailored to the patients level of comfort. This can allow the hospice care team to advocate care and treatment options on behalf of the patients goals and values.
Hospice Care Provides Comprehensive Support Structure & Assistance
Another significant benefit of enlisting the help of hospice service is the readily available support structure hospice care provides. While the team helps manage everyday symptoms, they will also talk to the patient and their caregivers about their goals, concerns and potential treatment options moving forward. This can give the patient ample time to clarify what is most important to them, how and where they want to be cared for, and what level of care they want in the future.
As the illness progresses, hospice care teams can then work with the patient’s family to align the patient’s goals with an appropriate care plan, whether it’s at their home, in an assisted living facility or in a nursing home. The team will give the patient’s family guidance, help them cope with these concerns and, later, assist them in making decisions about hospitalization in the future. Harbor Light Hospice workers can also assist families with financial planning and finding financial help throughout hospice care and afterward.
Respite and Emotion Support: How Hospice Care Can Help Primary Caregivers
Because dementia often progresses slowly, “new symptoms” often don’t appear until much later, after caregivers and family members have become accustomed to them. This presents a challenge for caregivers, as every “forgotten action” presents more work in assisting and helping the patient. Because the “new normal” occurs so slowly, caregivers can often do more and more work to care for their loved one without even realizing it, inevitably making them exhausted. This fatigue can lead to burnout, and inevitably increase the caregivers likelihood of becoming physically or psychologically ill themselves. In addition to becoming more irritable, caregivers could also develop anxiety-problems and depression and may even lash out at the patient.
This is yet another reason why hospice care can be an indispensable ally. By providing respite care for caregivers in need of a break, and emotional support when needed, hospice care teams can increase the wellbeing of caregivers, as well as the patient. This can enable the loved ones of those suffering dementia invaluable time to decompress and refuel, permitting them to provide even better care in the process.
Contact Harbor Light Hospice Today
We hope this informative article has helped you understand the vital role hospice care services can play in assisting in the care of dementia patients. In addition to collaborating with hospital staff to minimize adverse experiences, hospice specialists provide comprehensive pain management, clear communication and guidance. In addition, by providing respite and emotional support, hospice care services attend to caregiver’s needs as well, ensuring that everyone involved gets the attention and care they need.
Contact Harbor Light Hospice today to learn more about our hospice care for dementia patients.