Maintaining Quality of Life with Alzheimer’s: Palliative Care Can Help

If you or a loved one are living with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, you know you are facing a difficult road ahead. The disease begins with memory loss, confusion and trouble making decisions, and gets worse over time, eventually affecting basic control over the body. But with the help of a medical specialty called palliative care, there is a lot that can be done to make people living with dementia more comfortable and reduce distress.

Palliative care is specialized medical care for people living with serious illnesses like Alzheimer’s or dementia. It is focused on improving quality of life for patients and their families, and it is provided by a specialist team of doctors, nurses, social workers and others who will work closely with your other doctors to give you an added layer of support.

Your palliative care team can help by assessing and treating the symptoms of dementia, such as anxiety, trouble sleeping or depression. They can also treat the symptoms of any other health problems you may have. Palliative care can also help caregivers establish a daily routine for care, help them recognize what sets off troubling behavior, and recognize signs of distress. Your palliative care team will also support your family caregivers who carry an enormous amount of stress. With palliative care you can avoid unnecessary emergency room visits and hospital stays – a common problem for people living with dementia.  

As your disease progresses, your needs will change. Your palliative care team will help you and your family understand each stage of the illness and know what to expect, so that you can make important decisions about the future, such as where you want to live and who will care for you and how. Making choices that will protect your quality of life is important for you and for your family.

If you or someone you love needs palliative care, don’t wait to ask for a referral. Ask your neurologist, or look for palliative care resources in your state at GetPalliativeCare.org/providers. Almost all large hospitals have palliative care teams, and it’s also available in outpatient clinics and for home visits, depending on your area.

Early involvement of palliative care can give you an added layer of support to help you and your family enjoy the best possible quality of life for as long as possible.

 

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