Older adults with dementia and their caregivers face serious challenges. Dementia symptoms can include confusion, agitation and memory loss, which may lead to feelings of anger and frustration. But with education and support, you can maintain a positive relationship and help create a calm, comforting environment.
Amedisys is here to help bring more peaceful, gratifying moments into your loved one’s end-of-life dementia care. Our specialized dementia program helps improve the quality of life of our patients and their families through education, support, pain and symptom management, and caregiver empowerment. We provide compassionate end-of-life care wherever your loved one calls home.
Did You Know? Your loved one is not alone. An estimated 5.5 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia among elderly people.
Dementia Specialty Program Highlights
- Focus on improving quality of life while managing the symptoms of dementia
- Specialized care from a diverse team of professionals who have intensive training in end-stage dementia care
- Dementia care that is backed by the latest research and goes beyond medications
- Personalized hospice and palliative care planning tailored to the older adult’s needs and wishes
How Hospice Care at Home Helps With Dementia
Every family’s journey is different. We’ll work with you to create a hospice care plan that focuses on what matters most to you and your loved one. Elderly people with dementia receive care from a compassionate team of nurses, social workers, hospice aides, chaplains, bereavement counselors and trained volunteers, in conjunction with their doctor. Our dementia specialty hospice program offers:
- Pain and symptom control so older adults with dementia can spend quality time with their caregivers and loved ones
- Nonverbal pain and behavior assessment
- Medical care, including visits by a nurse, for acute conditions like infections, behavioral issues and breathing difficulties
- Help with nutrition and specialized feeding needs
- Skin assessment and protection
- Help with bathing, grooming and personal care from a hospice aide
- Medications, medical equipment and supplies related to dementia
- Spiritual support with a hospice chaplain
- Emotional support and resources for the patient and family from a hospice social worker
Improving Your Loved One’s Quality of Life
In hospice care, we focus on preserving quality of life as the disease progresses, not curing dementia. In addition to pain management, some of the ways we can help older adults with dementia feel more comfortable include:
- A safe, relaxed environment
- Comfort blanket to calm unsettled behaviors
- Activity lap pad with various textures and moveable parts to touch, helping to reduce agitation and increase mental stimulation
- Chart-a-Life collage of memorable images that allows your loved one to relive significant past experiences and maintain mental, social and emotional functioning
- Comfort music to reduce restlessness and improve sleep, memory and social interaction
- Soothing comfort baths to minimize bathing stress, agitation and safety risks
- Gentle touch or massage, which provides relaxation, stress reduction, improved circulation and pain relief
- Journaling as a form of communication and reflection between families and patients
- Connection, compassion, communication and reassurance
Did You Know? Most elderly people (80%) with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias receive care in their homes, usually provided by family or friends.
Support for Senior Caregivers
We understand the gratification, as well as the intense demands, of caring for a loved one with dementia. As the disease progresses, it can be difficult to manage dementia symptoms such as confusion and personality changes.
Senior caregivers have difficult decisions to make about their loved one’s care. You also face major life decisions of your own such as needing to stop working or cut back on hours to meet the needs of a loved one with dementia. The stress can take a toll. Our specialized hospice program for dementia can help by:
- Exploring family needs and expectations
- Providing caregiver education and support, which allows senior caregivers to spend more time as a loved one and less time as a caregiver
- Supporting loved ones as they process grief, loss, anxiety, depression and other emotions
- Offering respite care, which gives caregivers a needed break to rest and recharge
Dementia Symptoms We Address in Hospice Care
In our dementia program, we address safety concerns and manage uncomfortable symptoms, including those common in dementia:
- Unsettled behaviors such as restlessness, confusion and Sundowner’s Syndrome (late-day confusion)
- Skin breakdown
- Altered nutrition
Goals of Dementia Care in Hospice
Some of the goals of our dementia program include:
- Improve comfort and quality of life for patients and senior caregivers
- Create lucid moments for the patient
- Increase family support and satisfaction
- Avoid unnecessary trips to the hospital
What Are the 7 Stages of Dementia?
Your loved one’s healthcare provider may talk with you about the stages of dementia. This is a way to determine how an older adult’s dementia symptoms have progressed and find the best treatment for their needs.
There are several scales for rating dementia. One of the most commonly used for older adults with Alzheimer’s disease is the Reisberg Scale, or Global Deterioration Scale. This scale describes the seven stages of dementia, based on the severity of an elderly person’s symptoms. Because people don’t typically get diagnosed with dementia in the first three stages, stage 4 is considered early dementia, stages 5 and 6 are middle dementia, and stage 7 is late-stage dementia.
Dementia Stage 1: Normal functioning, with no memory loss or mental health issues
Dementia Stage 2: Normal forgetfulness associated with aging
Dementia Stage 3: Loved ones may start to notice some of the following early dementia symptoms:
- Increased forgetfulness
- Trouble finding the right words
- Slight difficulty concentrating
- Decreased work performance
Dementia Stage 4: The older adult’s doctor can detect cognitive issues during an exam, based on the following dementia symptoms:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Memory loss about recent events
- Trouble managing finances or traveling alone to new places
- Difficulty with complex tasks
- Withdrawal from friends or family
Dementia Stage 5: Dementia symptoms intensify to include:
- Major memory loss that may include important aspects of current life events (e.g., date, time, address or phone number)
- Need help with some daily activities such as bathing and cooking
Dementia Stage 6: Significant declines lead to some of the following dementia symptoms:
- Need extensive help with daily activities
- Memory loss that may include recent events and names of close family members
- Difficulty with tasks like counting down from 10
- Incontinence (loss of bladder/bowel control)
- Trouble speaking
- Personality changes
- Compulsive or repetitive behavior such as cleaning
Dementia Stage 7: In end-stage dementia, the older adult may have the following additional symptoms:
- Inability to speak
- Need assistance with most daily activities
- Inability to walk
Did You Know? In 2016, 20% of hospice Medicare beneficiaries had Alzheimer’s disease or dementia as their main diagnosis.
When to Call Hospice for Dementia
Dementia is a chronic disease that sometimes follows an unpredictable course. For this reason, it can be difficult to determine the life expectancy of an elderly person with dementia. So how do you know when it’s time for hospice and palliative care?
For many families, an important consideration is quality of life. What are your loved one’s goals of care? If comfort, patient and caregiver support, and quality of life are some of the top priorities, hospice care may be the best choice. We can help you gather information, make a plan and determine if your loved one is eligible for hospice care.
Signs of end-stage dementia may include:
- Having trouble eating and swallowing
- Limited speech, or being unable to speak
- Incontinence (loss of bladder/bowel control)
- Needing help to walk, or being unable to move without help
- Needing help with daily activities like eating, bathing and getting dressed
- Developing infections such as pneumonia
- Being diagnosed with another condition such as COPD, heart failure or cancer
- More frequent trips to the hospital
- Feeling more agitated or restless
- Memory loss, which may lead to inability to recognize friends and family
We can help you decide if it is time to bring in an Amedisys hospice care team to provide additional care and support. Hospice care provides relief for both patients and caregivers. Many families tell us their biggest regret is not getting hospice care sooner.
Learn more about our dementia specialty program.