Of Americans aged 65 and over, 1 in 8 has Alzheimer's, and nearly half of people aged 85 and older have the disease. Alzheimer's is a brain disease which is progressive and irreversible. Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of dementia among older people, but it is not normal part of aging. The word "dementia" refers to a decline in cognitive function that interferes with daily life and activities. Although treatment can slow the progression of Alzheimer's disease and help manage its symptoms in some people, currently, there is no cure. In the early stages, symptoms may not be dramatic. The person may be forgetful, may show poor judgment, lose things, or begin to show signs of mood and personality changes. As Alzheimer's progresses, persons in the moderate stages begin to lose even more of themselves. This may be apparent through increased memory loss and confusion. For some people, the disease may cause delusions and paranoia. People in the final stage are generally unable to communicate and unable to remember loved ones or their own life's journey. They become dependent on others for their daily care and are often bed ridden and lack control over body functions. By the end of the disease, most people can no longer walk or even sit up right. Persons with end-stage Alzheimer's disease may die of the condition itself or related complications.
Once a person with Alzheimer's disease has reached the advanced stages of the disease, the level of care required is a great demand on families. Alzheimer's disease is considered incurable and terminal, so comfort care and a focus on quality of life is a priority. This is the time to choose Hospice.
The hospice team provides support to family. The hospice team helps the family to clarify the plan of care for comfort and to discuss the benefits and disadvantages of aggressive medical intervention for the patient. Part of the goal of hospice care is to educate the family on the disease process and what will progressively occur. This helps to alleviate misunderstandings and relieve feelings of guilt concerning health care decisions.
Three signs that indicate Your Loved One is ready for Hospice:
1. The disease has progressed to the point that there's no cure, and you've (and your loved one) has decided to manage the pain and be comfortable and not actively seek to treat the disease.
2. You and your loved one chooses to forego any further testing of hospitalizations-by this choice, you allow the dying process to happen naturally. Body functions/organs may begin to diminish.
3. You're ready to begin to let go, say good-bye and follow the oath of hospice, which is to "neither hinder, not hasten death."
Visit www.nhpco.org , website for National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization for more information.