Illnesses like Alzheimer's disease make it difficult for those who want to provide supportive care at the end of life to know what is needed. Because people with advanced dementia can no longer communicate, they cannot share their concerns. Is Uncle Bert refusing food because he is not hungry or because he's confused? Why does Grandma Ruth seem agitated? Is she in pain and needs medication to relieve it, but can't tell you?
As these conditions progress, they also obstruct efforts to provide emotional or spiritual comfort. How can you let Grandpa know how much his life has meant to you? How do you make peace with your mother if she no longer knows who you are? Someone who has severe memory loss might not take spiritual comfort from sharing family memories or understand when others express what an important part of their life this person has been. Palliative care or hospice can be helpful in many ways to families of people with dementia.
Sensory connections—targeting someone's senses, like hearing, touch, or sight—can bring comfort to people with Alzheimer's disease. Being touched or massaged and listening to music, "white" noise, or sounds from nature seem to soothe some people and lessen their agitation.
When an illness like Alzheimer's disease is first diagnosed, if everyone understands that there is no cure, then plans for the end of life can be made before thinking and speaking abilities fail and people can no longer legally complete documents like advance directives. That didn't happen in Ethel's family. She had been forgetful for years, but even after her family knew that AD was the cause of her forgetfulness, they never talked about what the future would bring. As time passed and the disease eroded Ethel's memory and her ability to think and speak, she became less and less able to share her concerns and desires with those close to her. This made it hard for her daughter Barbara to know what Ethel needed or wanted. Barbara's decisions, therefore, had to be based on what she knew about her mom's values and priorities, rather than on what Ethel actually said she would like.
Quality of life is an important issue when making health care decisions for people with Alzheimer's disease. For example, there are medicines available that might slow the progression of this devastating disease for a short time in some patients, generally early in the illness. However, in more advanced AD, some caregivers might not want these drugs prescribed. They may believe that the quality of life is already so diminished and that the medicine is unlikely to make a difference. If the drug has serious side effects, they are even more likely to decide against it.
End-of-life care decisions are more complicated for caregivers if the dying person has not expressed the kind of end-of-life care he or she would prefer. Someone newly diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease might not be able to imagine the later stages of the disease. Ethel was like that. She and Barbara never talked about things like feeding tubes, machines that help with breathing, antibiotics for pneumonia, or transfers to the hospital. So when doctors raised some of these questions, Barbara didn't know how to best reflect her mother's wishes. When making care decisions for someone else near the end of life, it is important to consider how a treatment will benefit the person and what the side effects and risks might be. Sometimes you might decide to try the health care team's suggestion for a short time. Other times you might decide that the best choice is to do nothing.
Alzheimer's disease and similar conditions often progress slowly and unpredictably. Experts suggest that signs of the final stage of Alzheimer's disease include some of the following:
- Being unable to move around on one's own
- Being unable to speak or make oneself understood
- Needing help with most, if not all, daily activities
- Eating problems such as difficulty swallowing or no appetite
Read in Detail here :
End of Life: Helping With Comfort and Care | National Institute on Aging