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Does Hospice Care Benefit Alzheimer's Dementia Patients?

  • Category: Patient Stories
  • Posted On:
  • Written By: Dr. Eric Bush, MD, Rph, MBA, Medical Director, Hospice & Palliative Care

Alzheimer’s dementia is the 5th leading cause of death in the United States among Americans 65 years and older. About 70% of Americans with dementia die in a nursing home or long-term care facility.

In many cases, hospice can improve the end of life experience for patients with advanced dementia/Alzheimer’s disease.

From a medical perspective, the following changes in a patient may indicate appropriateness for referral to hospice services:

  • inability to dress, bathe and walk without assistance
  • inability to consistently communicate verbally (speech limited to 6 words or less)
  • hospitalization for one or more of these conditions within the past year: aspiration pneumonia, urinary tract infection, septicemia, pressure ulcers, fever (recurrent after antibiotics), unintentional weight loss or low serum albumin (< 2.5 gm dl)

Hospice of Frederick County can support the patient and their families by educating them on what to expect in later stages of dementia. Hospice can also provide social worker support to help patients/families discuss difficult issues, such as artificial hydration/nutrition (although feeding tubes do NOT prevent aspiration).

In addition, hospice provides grief counseling for the family before, as well as after the patient’s death.