Families and caregivers dealing with someone battling Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia have all sorts of challenges in trying to keep them as safe and as calm as possible while their mental faculties gradually decline. The trained professionals at Above and Beyond Home Health Care and Hospice are experienced at dealing with these challenges.
Some people who have dealt with this disease use terms like ‘twilight’ or ‘sunset’ to describe this gradual decline, not unlike the slow shift into darkness we encounter in nature when a bright afternoon fades into a dim evening.
Because no cure has been found yet for Alzheimer’s disease, “nightfall” typically means death as the patient’s body begins to shut down with no hope of recovery.
This stage of the disease sometimes can come with mixed feelings. While no one wants to see a beloved family member pass away, there is sometimes a sense of relief that they’re no longer in pain or suffering and no longer have to continue to lose their memories and self. And, if someone’s spiritual views permit it, there’s often a hope that death has allowed them to move to a better place, with full recall and full recognition and no confusion.
In the Dubuque area, families who have a loved one with Alzheimer’s have access to useful community resources, including caregivers, retirement communities, home health care services, aging specialists and medical professionals.
This list of health experts willing to offer assistance also can include hospice services. Learning more about hospice and palliative care options can be useful for future reference or if death is imminent. Medical professionals often recommend a patient for hospice care if they have six months or less to live since it can offer emotional and physical support beyond traditional care.
However, some patients may not use this service until the end is near, while others may survive longer than six months.
Providing hospice care to Alzheimer’s patients has some similarities to people with other health needs. But there are also some differences.
For instance, basic care, like checking vital signs and pain management, are unchanged. But there are some challenges for hospice-trained employees.
The patient may not be aware of their current condition, which makes it difficult to discuss end-of-life matters. Others in terminal conditions may use their remaining time to take care of final arrangements like finances, estate, or even plan for their funeral. These decisions will likely be made by family members or whoever has been given power of attorney.
Hospice nurses in the Dubuque area are also used to talking with patients about death and what’s beyond. Though they are not clergy and are encouraged to refrain from any sort of religious debates, they are always happy to be present to listen to a dying patient share their stories or speculate on what could be coming next.
However, with some advanced Alzheimer’s disease patients, they may not be aware of where they are, let alone curious what the next step could be.
Determining whether or not someone with Alzheimer’s or some dementias is a candidate for hospice can sometimes be tricky, so should be left to medical professionals, such as a primary provider or a neurologist familiar with their specific case.
Conditions can include the patient being no longer able to do anything for themselves, such as eat, drink, dress or groom; wanting to stay in bed and no longer having the ability or interest to walk; having a vocabulary of only a few words; and higher levels of anxiety than is considered standard for their age or progression of Alzheimer’s disease.
Hospice patients with Alzheimer’s are still given a plan of care and access to the same types of providers as patients with clearer mental states have access to, such as clergy, social workers, medical specialists and therapists. But sometimes, it’s family members or caregivers who appreciate the visit and ability to answer questions.
Plus, medical professionals trained in hospice care may be able to share useful information with family members and caregivers, such as what symptoms they may begin to see as the patient’s disease progresses, and how to continue to provide quality care.
For instance, a patient who is in generally good physical health living at home may only need a nurse to come by once or a twice a week. However, when he or she begins hospice care, there may be a medical need for more visits, plus agreement from insurance companies that this is a necessary service for the patient’s well-being.
The benefits of hospice care can also extend beyond the patient to family members. They can receive information from financial specialists about costs for medical care and for other services, including funeral and burial. Bereavement services also can be found.
A hospice professional in Dubuque may also be able to provide info about respite care, which can provide a short break for caregivers. In some communities, the patient can spend time with other Alzheimer’s patients, or someone could watch him or her at home while the caregivers do something else enjoyable.
Overall, it can be challenging when a loved one is battling Alzheimer’s disease. But learning the facts about the different stages of it, especially end of life and what hospice options are available in your community, can be useful.