In our previous installments, we’ve covered all the many ways hospice can help, but when is the right time to make that call?
Challenges and Signs To Look For
Like so many other aspects of this disease, there are some challenges and patterns we see in hospice care for persons living with dementia. Aside from the obvious challenge presented by cognitive decline, there is the much bigger issue of not always being able to recognize or verbalize when they are in pain or discomfort. And that’s when the hospice nurses and aides really shine, because they are so tuned into their patients’ baseline behaviors that they can immediately sense when a change has occurred.
The common refrain we heard from hospice care providers was, “the earlier you can get on hospice, the better.” While 6 months is the length of hospice term you’ll hear repeated, you will never “run out” of care the way you might with standard home health care plans. As long as you continue to qualify (there are periodic re-evaluations), hospice will provide care as long as you need it. There is no penalty from Medicare for exceeding 6 months, and with dementia patients, their decline is more often a slower stair-step process as opposed to someone with cancer, for example, whose decline may be much quicker.
Too often, families wait until the very end when care options are much more limited. But when will you know it’s time to start thinking about hospice? At Autumn Leaves, the care staff can be a great resource since they know your loved one very well and will recognize concerning changes. These may include extreme weight loss, increased frequency in hospital stays, marked change in behavior, frequent UTIs/incontinence, or aspiration leading to infection. Another sign to watch for is if your loved one suddenly withdraws and spends more time in their room than out in the community.
Once you’ve decided it may be time for hospice, how will you know which service to choose? We’ll cover the important things to look for in a hospice provider in our final post of this series. Click to keep reading —>
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