If this blog has your attention, it is likely someone you love has been waging a difficult physical and emotional battle against Alzheimer’s disease. Many patients and families currently suffering under the devastating effects of end-stage Alzheimer’s disease can find relief with hospice care. By helping to relieve pain and control symptoms, the professionals on a hospice team can reduce anxiety and worry, as well as create space for comfort and connection for patients and their families.
The Hospice Conversation
The hospice conversation is important and doesn’t have to be difficult. Knowing what services are available to you and your family is empowering at a time when you may not be feeling powerful. When you recognize hospice as a resource it becomes easier to make informed decisions about next steps in the progression of care.
Should I be Considering Hospice?
It’s important to know if hospice services are something that will benefit you; Alzheimer’s can affect the entire family and during the most advanced stage of the dementia journey, both you and your loved one may benefit from the heartfelt care a hospice team provides. A conversation with hospice professionals will help you determine the right time to introduce hospice care.
Benefits Associated With Early Hospice Involvement
Though most patients are eligible for hospice care when their physician advises they are terminally ill and the prognosis is that they will have six months or less to live, it’s best not to view hospice care as a crisis service for just the last few days of life. Hospice is a program specifically designed to care for the special needs the patient and their family as they approach end of life.
An early hospice admission allows both, the patient and their family to receive the full benefit of hospice services. Additionally, when pain and other symptoms are effectively controlled, a patient may not only find relief, but they also have a potential to live longer in a comfortable setting. The benefits of choosing hospice early are many and can include:
For the Patient
- Effective medication, pain and symptom management resulting in less discomfort and fewer emergency hospitalizations
- Earlier intervention may decrease stress levels and have a positive impact on the quality of life
- Full emotional, psychological and spiritual support
- Potential complementary therapies such as music, pet, and massage therapy
For the Family
- Education and support in what can be an overwhelming situation
- Enhanced participation in the care of their loved one, assisted by their connection to an experienced care team during the loved one’s final months
- Developing an earlier relationship with the hospice bereavement team
- Satisfaction associated with their loved one’s comfortable state during a difficult time
Beyond Clinical Care
Hospice care team members are educated professionals focused on your loved one’s changing physical and emotional needs and they are able to provide services tailored to your specific situation. With clinical and emotional support, you and your family can remain focused on living each day to its fullest measure together, and in the most comfortable environment possible.
A hospice team will develop a care plan with your physician that ensures your loved one’s physical needs are met. Regular assessments by nurses will monitor and address symptoms, keeping the patient comfortable and potentially reducing visits to the ER.
In addition to clinical coordination, hospice professionals can provide emotional and spiritual support in a way that is responsive to your family’s values and beliefs. They understand the progression of Alzheimer’s and its accompanying symptoms, and they can educate your family, helping you gain comfort and skill in caring for your loved one during this difficult end-of-life chapter.
When’s the Right Time to Talk About Hospice?
Knowing your options in advance can help you make educated decisions in a timely manner, so it’s important to have the hospice conversation as soon as you feel ready. Many hospice satisfaction surveys indicate an overwhelming majority of patients and caregivers stating that they would have liked being referred to hospice earlier.
If your desire is to eventually provide your loved one an environment without pain and the side effects of aggressive treatment at the end of their Alzheimer’s journey, you may want to start a conversation about hospice. Remember that hospice is not a place, it’s a term to describe a philosophy of care and it’s about helping patients and their families live to its fullest with the time they have. If you’re ready to find out more about hospice for you or a family member, at American Senior Communities, our hospice professionals are ready to talk with you. For more information about ASC, visit our website at ASCCare.com.