April 19, 2023 | Categories: News

Living with Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia: How Palliative Care Can Help

By Andy Esch, MD

If you care for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, you may struggle with day-to-day challenges and maintain quality of life. Dementia is a disease of the brain that begins with memory loss, confusion, and difficulty making decisions, all worsening over time. This may mean that your loved one doesn’t recognize their surroundings or people in their life or may be unable to find the right words or do tasks that were once handled easily.

More care and support are needed as time passes, which adds stress for families taking on this responsibility. Palliative care, a medical specialty, can help family and other caregivers understand and manage various symptoms like agitation and poor or altered sleep, reduce distress, and improve quality of life.

Palliative care (pronounced pal-lee-uh-tiv) is specialized medical care for people living with a serious illness, like dementia. This type of care is focused on relief from the symptoms and stress of the illness. The goal is to improve the patient’s and family’s quality of life. Palliative care is provided by a specially trained team of doctors, nurses and other specialists who work together with a patient’s other doctors to provide an extra layer of support. It is appropriate at any age and any stage of a serious illness, and it can be provided along with other medical treatments.

How Palliative Care Helps Those Living with Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Dementias

Palliative care teams are trained to manage the symptoms and stress of serious illnesses. They help the person with dementia and those caring for them in many ways. This includes reducing some of the physical and emotional sufferings of the person with dementia, advising families on what to expect over time, and providing guidance for decision-making. The team also helps prevent unnecessary hospital trips; coordinates with other doctors (e.g., if your loved one has another serious illness that they are receiving treatment for); and, equally important, addresses the health and well-being of family caregivers.

If your loved one is living with dementia, palliative care specialists can be a significant source of support for you and your family. Depending on the palliative care program (and the resources available), they’ll do their best to ensure that you are part of the health care team and connect you with services within your community to assist with things like shopping and transportation.

How to Get Palliative Care

If you have a loved one living with Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia, you’re your doctor for a referral to palliative care. For tips on how to bring it up during an appointment, click here. Palliative care is available in most hospitals and is growing in outpatient clinics. In some areas, palliative care teams are available for home visits. You can also search this Provider Directory for palliative care resources in your area.

The post Living with Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia: How Palliative Care Can Help appeared first on Get Palliative Care.

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