Dementia is a heartbreaking condition to witness. Seeing your loved one change as they experience confusion, frustration and depression, slowly losing touch with reality, is difficult to bear.
As a caretaker, you are aware of how things change daily. When your loved one becomes more challenging to look after, you may wonder what options are available. Quality of life is something you consider as their condition worsens.
While skilled nursing or in-home care are standard options while your loved one’s physical health is still in good shape, it’s hard to know when it’s time to turn towards end-of-life care.
If you are looking at a hospice for dementia, you may be wondering if your loved one is eligible for care.
Contrary to the misconceptions, hospice care is available for patients with dementia. There are hospice criteria for dementia that your loved one has to meet to admit your loved one, and unfortunately, there isn’t a single rubric for patients with this illness. Follow along as we discuss some of the guidelines for admitting a patient with dementia into hospice.
What to Do If Your Loved One is Diagnosed with Dementia
If your loved one begins to show signs of dementia or the most common form of it, Alzheimer’s disease, you will want to take them to see their primary healthcare specialists as soon as you can for an evaluation.
Some of the most common signs include:
- Loss of memory
- Difficulty speaking
- Problems completing routine tasks
Discussing a Care and End-of-Life Plan with a Dementia Patient
Once your loved one has received a diagnosis, it’s essential to discuss the course the individual wants to take while they have the mental capacity to do so. Writing down their wishes and how they want to handle certain situations can give the caretaker more confidence regarding their loved one’s care. These decisions can include but aren’t limited to:
- Medication usage
- Care facility usage
- Whether to choose life-prolonging treatments or not
Learning About the Stages of Dementia
While your loved one’s healthcare specialist will give your some information about their condition, it’s best to know the various stages of dementia to identify patterns in their behavior. There are a few different scales for understanding deterioration. One of the most well-known is the Reisberg Scale.
The Reisberg Scale breaks dementia down into seven stages. Each stage includes some of the signs and symptoms of progression.
Knowledge of dementia’s progression will give you and your loved one a clear understanding of how their condition will change over time.
Communicate with Your Loved One About Their Care Plan for Later Stages of Dementia
Some patients want to treat their symptoms as much as possible, while others may prefer to defer treatment and elect to be as comfortable as possible. This type of information is vital if you’re a primary caretaker.
You will also want to know what they want to do once their condition worsens. This way, you can better understand if their desires for treatment for comorbidities and other complications with dementia. Have a meeting with them and other friends and family, if possible, to discuss what they want you to do.
Hospice Eligibility for Patients with Dementia
Unfortunately, unlike other terminal illnesses, dementia doesn’t have a precise cutoff for when you should seek care. Dementia is a gradual disease. It’s difficult to separate into distinct parts.
If your loved one is in the late stage of dementia, they are most likely eligible for care. The best way to find out if they can receive hospice care is by contacting a reputable hospice for an evaluation of your loved one. If an evaluating doctor deems that your loved one only has six months left to live, they will recommend hospice care.
Many times dementia patients cannot receive care because their physical body is still healthy while their mind is not. Only once comorbidities appear, like pneumonia, fever or pressure ulcers, do healthcare specialists approve hospice care. Once your loved one is approved for hospice care, a participating Medicare or private insurance plan will cover expenses.