Hospice Care and Alzheimer’s

For Americans age 65 and older, Alzheimer’s is the fifth leading cause of death.

Because Alzheimer’s generally develops over a period of time, a patient with an early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s may not qualify for hospice care. But when a patient reaches the later stages of Alzheimer’s and a doctor determines that a patient has six months or less to live, hospice care can play an important role for patients and their families.

Today’s Geriatric Medicine, in an article posted on its website, points out that “hospice is underutilized for advanced dementia patients.” The main reason? “End-of-life prognostication presents a significant barrier to hospice usage.” In other words, it may be harder for a doctor to make the “six months or less” assessment with an Alzheimer’s patient.

The article quotes geriatric care manager Joan Wright who says, “Emotions remain within the dementia patient long after other aspects of that person are lost. Hospice responds to those emotions, and the dementia patient responds in turn. Ensuring a peaceful environment and a dignified death is what hospice does best for dementia patients.”

In her recent book about Alzheimer’s, Slow Dancing With A Stranger, Meryl Comer mentions the early misdiagnoses of her husband’s Alzheimer’s. They ranged from Lyme disease to anemia to Mad Cow disease. (Her husband is currently in hospice care at home.)

Regarding his Alzheimer’s, she writes, “”The man I live with is not the man I fell in love with and married. He has slowly been robbed of what we all take for granted—the ability to navigate the mundane activities of daily living: bathing, shaving, dressing, feeding, and using the bathroom.”

In the book, she expresses distress that not only is there no cure for Alzheimer’s, there are no disease-modifying drugs or treatments.

Research to find cures and treatments for Alzheimer’s is continuing. Some of the funding for that research is collected via events like the Walk To End Alzheimer’s, set for Saturday, September 27, at St. Charles Community College in St. Peters. The Hope Hospice team will participate. If you’d like to help, click HERE for more information.

For questions about hospice care in metro St. Louis, call us at Hope Hospice at 314-984-9800.




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