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Specialized Care

Hospice Care for Dementia Patients and Alzheimer's Disease -

Specialized care is given to people who are diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease or dementia. As Alzheimer's progresses, a person may lose the ability to recognize close friends and family members, perform daily tasks like brushing teeth, bathing, and dressing, think clearly, communicate, eat on their own, or control their bowels or bladder.

Alzheimer's disease is the most common type of dementia.

Hospice care is a type of medical care that focuses on providing comfort and pain relief, not a cure. It also includes support for the family and caregivers. This type of care is given in the person's home or in a hospice facility. However, many people with dementia need 24-hour nursing care as their disease progresses. At the same time, this type of care often focuses on providing comfort and has very little ability to stop the progress of Alzheimer's. The goal is not to cure the person but to make them feel as comfortable as possible.

In a recent study, researchers found that hospice care may be a cost effective approach for people with advanced dementia who were receiving skilled nursing home care. Researchers concluded that patients in the study who received hospice care spent less on their final two years of life than those receiving continuing care in a skilled nursing home.

Caregiving Tips for Dementia

By learning about your loved one's disease process (for example, what deficits they are having), you can be a better caregiver. Educate yourself about caregiving and make good use of community resources to help your loved one as best you can.

If your loved one has dementia, you need to take care of yourself too. Make sure that you are getting enough rest and spend time with friends who can offer support. You will be helping both yourself and the person with dementia by asking for help when necessary.

Dementia and Family Caregivers

Family caregivers are very important to dementia patients. As they provide continuous care, therefore, sometimes they need support too. Getting break from caring dementia patient helps prevent burnout as well as create a work life balance.

In many cases, family caregivers have been taking care of the person with dementia on a daily basis for many years. As the disease progresses, it is normal for your loved one to need more care. You may feel guilty for being unable or unwilling to provide all the care they need, but this is a common feeling among Alzheimer's caregivers.

It is important to remember that these feelings are common among family caregivers and they are not alone in this situation. In fact, there are various strategies to cope in this situation.

Ways to Connect with a relative who has dementia

Dementia, an irreversible brain disease that slowly affects a person's memory and ability to learn, think, communicate and reason. A close relative's memory loss or other cognitive impairment can make it hard to connect with them.

Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), sought ways for people with dementia to engage in meaningful communication despite their limitations.

There are few general tips you should keep in mind when communicating with someone with dementia:

  • Offer a simple description of what is going on around them, by saying things like, "Here's a cupcake for you to enjoy" or "We're going outside now." By being as clear and descriptive as possible, it will help connect your loved one with his or her surroundings.
  • These can include photos or other physical representations of people and places that your relative is familiar with, as well as physical symbols to represent concepts such as time, numbers, days of the week and so on. This helps them remain more engaged and connected with you and others who are present for these interactions.
  • As Alzheimer's progresses, your loved one will have an increasingly difficult time processing more than one thought or topic at a time. This can be frustrating for them and anyone else involved in the conversation. Try to stick with only one subject during any given interaction, and to ask simple one or two part questions.
  • Encourage your loved one to tell stories about their past, and listen closely when they do so. Repeating details about their memories can help them maintain focus on the topic at hand. Note that this is not an invitation for rambling! Instead, aim to let them explore their past in a controlled manner, without judgment.
  • People with dementia are not always able to find the right words to communicate with. Rather than frustration or anger, try accepting that your loved one is experiencing this form of communication breakdown and respond to them with patience and kindness. As their caregiver, you can also help them find easier ways to get their point across.
  • When your loved one was still capable of conversation, you would probably have had a conversation spot in the home. Make sure that this spot still exists for when your loved one returns from the doctor or from another stay in a nursing facility. If your loved one's bedroom is far away from this area, make sure to open a dialogue with them about it and see if they would like to move their bedroom closer to this area.
  • One of the biggest challenges for people with dementia is the fear of others walking out on them or treating them like they are not competent anymore. You can help ease these fears by being frank with your loved one about what you find challenging about their behavior. This way, your loved one knows where they stand and what you are trying to achieve by having certain boundaries in the relationship.
  • When you make an offer of help you should not expect your relative to refuse. If they do, respect that decision. Don't take it too personally if they choose to decline your offer of help. Also avoid giving unsolicited advice. There are so many ways to give advice these days through Facebook, twitter, Instagram etcetera, that offering advice should be done only when you are specifically asked for it.
  • In order to have a loving relationship with your loved one, you have to let go of any frustrations that you're holding on to. Anger is not what this person needs from you at this stage of their life.
  • When you are helping your relative to unlock the door, turn on the lights etcetera; learn to do it your loved one's way. If you are helping them with their breakfast in bed, make sure that they feel like a queen or king for that day.

How to establish a hospice at home for your loved one

There are numerous questions and concerns that arise when considering hospice at home: How does it work? Who provides the care? What service is available, and how do we pay for it? Where can I get information and advice? Patients and their loved ones need answers to these questions in order to make an informed decision.

Who provides the care?

The patient's doctor can help you find a hospice that will provide care for your loved one at home. Both public and private facilities offer this service.

What service hospice team offers?

The most common services are nursing care, physical therapy, medical social work, homemaker or housekeeper services and spiritual support. Sometimes a visiting nurse cannot provide all the necessary home health care services that the patient requires, especially if she needs daily treatment for pain or another illness. A hospice stay at home will ensure the proper care the patient needs.

How do we pay for it?

Medicare, Medicaid and private health insurance are all accepted at most hospices. Some charge a sliding fee based on income, while others provide services free of charge. Still other hospices offer some services for free or at "cost" while charging fees for selected services that are not covered by insurance. Alzheimer care home costs vary depending on various factors.

Where can I get information on hospice care and life expectancy?

Contact your local health department or social service organization for a list of hospices in your area. They will be able to provide you with contact information for making an appointment with one of the hospice representatives who will explain the services they offer. Your doctor, hospital social worker and the local chapter of the hospice organization can also provide you with information and advice.

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