Dementia and Hospice Care
Dementia is often a difficult topic to discuss, because it’s technically a collective term that denotes symptoms of over 70 different medical conditions. Dementia refers to a set of behaviors which can show up in many elderly and chronically ill patients, making it a common scenario that we encounter. And yet, the signs and symptoms of dementia can be unique to each patient.
When you hear that your loved one has dementia, you might wonder exactly what you will encounter. You’re right to have these thoughts, because as we said, dementia can vary a great deal from one patient to another. Having said that, we do know that the most common presentation of dementia is the Alzheimer’s type.
In the vast majority of cases, Alzheimer’s follows a very predictable progression over the course of about ten years. Your loved one will progress through seven stages of the disease, starting at Stage One. In early stages, symptoms are usually mild. At Stage Six, the disease process becomes very identifiable. At this point, the patient becomes frequently confused, might become lost in their own home, and they begin to lose control of bowel and bladder functions. They are still walking around, talking and eating and often acting pretty normally, but they will gradually lose more and more functions.
By the time the patient has entered Stage Seven, they are usually within the last few months to year of their life span. We actually divide Stage Seven into stages A, B, C, and so on.
By Stage Seven C, the patient cannot make their needs known through language, and they generally cannot walk any longer. They might still be eating, smiling, and sitting up briefly, but at this point we begin to seriously consider Hospice care. We have now reached the point that the disease will only progress forward, often quite rapidly. The patient and his or her loved ones now need the supportive care provided by Hospice workers.
As a trusted member of the community, Hospice of the Valleys has been providing hospice care to the Inland Valley and Fallbrook for over 34 years. Please call us for senior community resources, or for information about hospice care. We’re here to help. 951-200-7800.