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Approaching the End of Life with an Alzheimer's Patient

Category: 

Grieving Process

Posted On: Jan 30, 2017

Approaching the End of Life with an Alzheimer's Patient

Alzheimer's Disease is devastating for the sufferer and her or his family. The degradation of memories is cruel and watching someone you love go through this battle is heartbreaking. Many families and friends choose to care for loved ones with Alzheimer's or dementia on their own, believing that it will keep the patient grounded, but while that is helpful and although this is a noble, loving decision, the end-of-life care for someone who has dementia is far more complex.

Plan Early

A dementia diagnosis is not a death sentence. Patients with Alzheimer's may live for years. However, no matter what the age of your loved one upon diagnosis, you should start to plan at that moment. Your plans don't have to take place tomorrow, but being proactive is the kindest thing you can do. Even if you only look for palliative care options in your area or research assisted living facilities or hospice care, so you know when the time comes, being prepared will take a weight off your mind down the line.

Quality Is More Important than Quantity

Simply put, don't focus on how many days, weeks, or months your loved one has left once the end approaches. That does not matter. The quality of care is more important than length of life at this point. Focus on providing the patient with the highest possible quality of attention. Your aim in these last days is to keep your loved one comfortable, happy, and safe. Do everything you can to preserve his or her dignity.

Place Compassion above All

As you look for facilities, programs, nurses, and therapists, keep an eye out for one thing: compassion. Everyone deserves compassion at the end of their lives, but patients with Alzheimer's or dementia depend on it. They are vulnerable to mistreatment and manipulation. Put in the extra time to choose carers and care facilities that place compassion at the top of their lists. Your loved one deserves to remain comfortable, clean, and cared for at the end.

Choose between Palliative and End-of-Life Care

Palliative care and end-of-life care are two different things. With end-of-life care, the aim is to keep the patient content, comfortable, and respected. With palliative care, the idea is to relieve, or palliate, any pain, distress, or discomfort the patient feels. The illness or issue itself is not important. During palliative care, pain is verboten. The symptoms are the primary concern.

This is a painful time for any family to go through, but that's why it's so important to do things right from the beginning. Most of all, be present for your loved one. Be there. Listen and love.