When you or your loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, it can be a frightening and difficult discovery. Alzheimer’s Disease has often been referred to as a “family disease”, as it not only affects the individual who has been diagnosed, but reaches family, friends, and the community. The care required for a person with Alzheimer’s Disease can demand extensive time, attention, and energy. Adapting to these changes can be very difficult and requires a great amount of understanding, flexibility, and patience.
Studies have shown there are three stages with the progression of this disease; early stage, mid stage, and end stage. Identifying which stage you are encountering can help determine the needs of the person with the disease and provide guidance in planning and preparing for the future. Throughout all of the three stages, changes take place in the brain of a person with Alzheimer’s disease causing him or her to exhibit unusual physical and emotional behavior they cannot control, which is frustrating for not only them but for family and friends as well.
A person with end stage Alzheimer’s Disease is completely dependent on the caregiver who must provide constant supervision and assistance with all activities of daily living: toileting, eating, dressing, bathing and mobility. When someone enters the end stage of this disease, they may qualify for additional support through hospice services, which focuses primarily on pain management and comfort care. Having trained professionals with expertise in identifying pain management needs can be very important in providing peace of mind to the caregiver as during this stage your loved one is unable to communicate to express their needs.
According to the Medicare admission criteria for hospice, services are designed to meet the needs of patients whose physician has given them a life expectancy of six months or less, although some patients may remain on hospice longer with documentation supporting that they are steadily declining in their disease. Since predicting just how long someone will remain in the end stage of this disease can be difficult, certain indicators can help determine if you or your loved one may benefit from hospice care and may include one or a combination of the following: progressive decline despite medical therapies, multiple hospitalizations/frequent ER visits, pain that is more difficult to control, diminished functional status, decreased appetite with progressive weight loss, increased dyspnea (trouble breathing), dysphagia (trouble swallowing), recurrent infections, decline in mental status, and increased weakness and drowsiness.