Hospice care can help those with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) who are nearing the end of their lives. This care aims to manage symptoms and improve quality of life. It can also provide significant relief and support to primary caregivers.

To receive hospice care, a person can contact hospice care providers. These companies offer services such as home nursing and physician oversight. Those with AD can receive hospice care where they live, such as at home, at an assisted living facility, or in a nursing home.

Hospice UK recommends that people with AD and their loved ones discuss end-of-life care as soon as possible following diagnosis. This is because those in the advanced stages of AD may find it difficult or impossible to have this conversation.

This article provides an overview of hospice care for people with AD and looks at how it may help those with the condition and their loved ones or caregivers. It also details how a person may be able to get hospice care.

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Hospice care aims to provide palliative care to people nearing the end of their lives. “Palliative care” describes medical treatment that does not try to cure someone’s condition. Instead, it aims to manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life.

Services include:

According to a study in BMC Palliative Care, people with AD have palliative care needs equal to those of individuals with cancer.

People with AD and their caregivers can both benefit from hospice care. A 2021 paper states that both groups tend to be more satisfied with hospice care than alternative medical care.

For those with AD

There are several ways in which hospice care can help manage symptoms and improve the lives of people with AD.

For instance, advanced AD can lead to breathlessness. According to a 2020 paper, hospice care increases the likelihood of an individual receiving adequate treatment to relieve this symptom. This might include oxygen therapy or morphine.

The 2021 paper mentioned in the previous section notes that hospice care can lower the probability of hospitalization in people with advanced AD. It also increases their likelihood of receiving appropriate pain treatment.

For caregivers and loved ones

Being a caregiver for someone with AD can be challenging.

However, research suggests hospice care can make it easier for caregivers to meet their own needs. Hospice care can reduce the number of tasks caregivers need to do and may improve their quality of life.

Hospice care may also provide bereavement support to caregivers of people with AD. This support sometimes begins before the individual with AD has died.

According to the 2021 paper, hospice providers typically use specific eligibility criteria for people with AD.

Some only offer services to people after they reach stage 7 of the Functional Assessment Staging Tool (FAST) scale. At this stage, health issues begin progressing, and the average survival time is fewer than 2.5 years.

Hospice providers may also require that the individual with AD has experienced one of the following complications within 1 year of requesting hospice care:

Other providers may operate with different criteria.

Hospice care may be highly beneficial for those who have advanced AD or dementia.

People with AD or those who care for them may wish to contact a hospice when they notice the following signs:

  • the individual becomes weaker
  • they have difficulty eating, drinking, or swallowing
  • they experience falls or infections more frequently
  • they become likelier to need urgent medical assistance
  • they sleep more
  • they talk less often
  • they become less mobile

An individual with AD may also benefit from hospice care if they have another condition in its later stages.

As the Hospice Foundation explains, hospice care providers can offer free evaluations for people who may need their services. These take place upon request from the individual with AD or a caregiver.

Evaluations involve staff from the hospice provider visiting the individual to assess their eligibility. If the person is eligible, staff will also determine which services they may benefit from.

When looking into hospice care, people may wish to follow these steps:

  • Begin the conversation: People or their caregivers can begin to discuss hospice care with a healthcare professional.
  • Ask for recommendations: If the healthcare professional agrees that a person with AD would benefit from hospice care, they may provide recommendations.
  • Visit and assess the hospice provider: People can request to visit the provider they are considering on a no-cost and no-obligation basis.
  • Continue with admission: The admission process can proceed.

The hospice care provider can begin making the necessary arrangements as soon as the required documents are complete.

It can be challenging to choose a hospice care provider. However, asking for recommendations from doctors can help.

Alternatively, a person can use the Alzheimer’s Association’s online tool to help find a hospice care provider. Sometimes, it is also possible to read online reviews.

Questions to ask

When an individual is trying to settle on potential hospice care providers, they may find it helpful to keep certain questions in mind.

The Alzheimer’s Association recommends considering the following:

  • Is there a 24-7 call line?
  • How long has the provider been in business?
  • Does the provider have previous experience with people who have AD?
  • Does the hospice provider offer services which specifically improve people’s comfort levels?
  • Has Medicare certified the hospice program?

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, Medicare covers hospice care for people with dementia. However, the individual must meet certain conditions to be eligible, including the following:

  • The individual has Medicare Part A.
  • The individual’s doctor and a hospice medical director judge the person to have a life expectancy of 6 months or fewer, assuming a typical course of illness.
  • The individual or someone with power of attorney chooses hospice care and waives their right to any other form of Medicare assistance for their dementia.

Medicaid and private insurance plans may also cover hospice care.

Several organizations can offer support and information about hospice care and AD. In the United States, these include:

In the United Kingdom, the Alzheimer’s Society and Hospice UK provide similar services.

Hospice care provides palliative treatment for individuals nearing the end of their lives. This includes people with AD. Hospice care can manage symptoms such as breathlessness and increase the likelihood of regular pain treatment. Caregivers of those with AD may also benefit from their receiving hospice care.

Signs that someone with AD may need hospice care include increased weakness, greater difficulty with eating or drinking, and decreased mobility. An individual with AD must typically be at Stage 7 of the FAST scale to be eligible.

Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurance policies can cover the cost of hospice care for those who meet certain conditions.