Caring for Mind and Spirit: How United Hospice Serves Dementia Patients

By Dr. David Chmielewski

Dementia is a term used to describe the loss of cognitive abilities that interfere with daily life, such as memory, language, and problem-solving. Dementia can manifest in various ways, such as difficulties with short-term memory, managing personal belongings like a purse or wallet, handling financial responsibilities, planning and cooking meals, and remembering appointments.

This decline in cognitive abilities, often brought about by conditions such as Alzheimer’s, affects behavior, feelings, and relationships. Dementia symptoms progressively intensify, indicating that the initial signs of cognitive impairment emerge slowly but steadily worsen, ultimately culminating in dementia. It’s crucial to pay heed to memory troubles or alterations in thinking abilities in oneself or others. These should never be dismissed or overlooked.

Dealing with dementia can be emotionally challenging for both patients and their families. However, hospice care can significantly improve the quality of life for these patients and their caregivers.

In this blog post, we will discuss the importance of hospice care for dementia patients and our commitment at United Hospice to providing excellent care.

United Hospice’s Approach to Dementia Care

For over 35 years, United Hospice has been dedicated to serving seriously ill individuals and their families in the Hudson Valley. As an experienced leader in providing hospice care in the region, United Hospice best enables the comfort, palliative care, and quality of life for patients near the end of life, and the practical, spiritual, and emotional support of their families and caregivers. United Hospice’s mission is to honor life, give care, and bring comfort.

We believe in individualizing care, tailoring it to each patient’s needs, and providing more frequent patient visits than other similar organizations. The United Hospice care team consists of a Registered Nurse (RN), Social Worker, Chaplain, and Physician. Home visits are conducted by both RNs and Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs). For face-to-face recertification, family meetings, or to enhance care, United Hospice sends out Physicians and Nurse Practitioners (NPs). While primary, ongoing nursing care is provided by an RN. Our triage services are conducted over the phone, and the nurse is dispatched as needed.

On average, United Hospice dedicates an outstanding 28.3 minutes of nursing care per day for each patient, significantly surpassing both the national average of 13.9 minutes and the New York state average of 16.1 minutes.

We understand that dementia care isn’t a nine-to-five job. It requires round-the-clock attention, which is why United Hospice offers 24/7 support. Our dedicated team is always available, ready to provide assistance, guidance, or simply a listening ear whenever it’s needed. Whether it’s for immediate medical attention, advice on handling daily care challenges, or emotional support during tough moments, our team is just a phone call away. This commitment to constant availability is part of our promise to ensure that every patient and their family receives the support and care they need, exactly when they need it.

Enhancing Quality of Life

Hospice care focuses on maintaining comfort, dignity, and respect for patients in the final stages of Alzheimer’s and other dementias. It involves a range of services, from medical care to alleviate symptoms and pain, to counseling about the emotional and spiritual impact of the end-of-life, respite care, and grief support for the family.

At United Hospice, we also believe in promoting mental and emotional well-being through engaging activities and therapies that stimulate patients. Our specially trained staff works with dementia patients and their families to create personalized care plans that address their unique needs.

Our goal is to not only provide physical care but also to enhance the overall quality of life for our dementia patients. We understand that each person’s journey with dementia is different, and we strive to meet them where they are and provide the best care possible.

Benefits of Hospice Care for Dementia Patients

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), dementia is a major cause of disability and dependency among older people worldwide. As the condition progresses, patients require round-the-clock care, which can be exhausting for families to manage alone. Hospice care provides a team approach to support not only patients but also their caregivers.

Research shows that patients with dementia who received hospice care reported a higher standard of care and better management of sadness and anxiety compared to those who did not receive hospice care. Hospice care can also provide stability during the final days, reducing unnecessary shifts to different care settings. Additionally, hospice care can minimize healthcare costs and reduce the burden on families.

Family Involvement

Receiving a dementia diagnosis can have a profound impact, evoking a range of emotions. From grief, anger, and shock to fear, individuals may experience a mix of feelings. While some find solace in knowing what’s wrong and planning for the future, others struggle with fear, confusion, and sadness about how dementia affects their lives. The diagnosis can lead to depression and anxiety, but therapy and medication can help. It’s crucial to openly express feelings during this challenging time. As carers, listen, acknowledge worries, focus on enjoying the present, and use humor to lighten the situation.

Dementia can significantly impact confidence and self-esteem. It often leads to insecurity, loss of confidence, and lack of self-trust. Individuals with dementia may also experience social stigma and feel treated differently, further affecting their self-esteem. This condition can affect health, finances, employment, and relationships. However, it’s important to note that some people with dementia can find support through activities like classes or support groups. Maintaining self-esteem can help individuals manage their chronic health conditions better. For carers, offering plenty of praise and encouragement, avoiding harsh criticism or belittling comments, allowing time for enjoyable activities, and providing supportive care when mistakes occur can greatly contribute to the well-being of individuals with dementia. Additionally, helping them maintain existing social relationships and form new ones through joint activities, hobby groups, and encouraging conversation can be beneficial.

Support for Caregivers

Caring for a loved one with dementia can be a challenging and overwhelming task, often leading to caregiver burnout. Hospice services provide relief and support for caregivers, allowing them to take much-needed breaks while ensuring their loved ones receive adequate care. United Hospice offers respite care both in the home and at our Joe Raso Hospice Residence, giving caregivers the opportunity to rest and recharge while their loved ones are cared for by our trained staff.

We recognize the emotional impact a diagnosis of dementia can have on families. United Hospice offers bereavement services to anyone in the Hudson Valley community who has experienced a loss. Our team of counselors, social workers, and volunteers work with families to help them navigate the grieving process. They give them tools to cope with their loss and begin building healthy, fulfilling lives.

Dementia causes a progressive deterioration in cognitive abilities, posing challenges for individuals in making healthcare choices. When making healthcare decisions for someone with dementia, it is vital to prioritize their quality of life. United Hospice offers valuable assistance and guidance to families as they navigate the complexities of end-of-life decisions and caregiving for their loved ones with dementia.

“My grandmother was a patient at Joe Raso Hospice Residence, where she received the most comprehensive and compassionate care from their amazing staff. After her passing, I learned I could receive bereavement counseling for the next year through United Hospice. Counseling was the greatest gift I could have acquired after the loss of my grandmother. Marie helped me process all phases of my grief with compassion and empathy. Her guidance during this difficult time was invaluable. I am forever grateful to have had the opportunity to work with her.” Tina Guarriello

“After losing my lovely wife of forty-two years and sinking into a state of unimaginable, overwhelming grief, I was fortunate to be connected with the bereavement counseling professionals at United Hospice. Participating in both group and individual sessions allowed me to progress to a point where I was much better able to handle the emotions associated with my wife’s passing and to work to get my life back on track. The level of heartfelt compassion and concern expressed by the counselors, combined with their extensive experience, proved invaluable in helping me and others in the group adapt to our new lives.” Tom Daly

When to Consider United Hospice for Dementia Patients

Recognizing the signs that hospice care is appropriate can be challenging due to the unpredictable progression of dementia. Individuals who have recently been diagnosed with dementia may struggle to envision the later stages of the disease. However, it is crucial to proactively make arrangements for end-of-life matters soon after diagnosis, before the person affected by the illness becomes incapable of completing advance directives and other vital legal documentation.

Some signs to look out for include:

  • Immobility
  • Inability to communicate effectively
  • Eating difficulties, such as swallowing challenges

It’s never too soon to contact United Hospice. Early involvement in hospice services can allow for a personalized care plan to be developed and implemented, catering specifically to the individual’s needs, wishes, and personal circumstances. This eases the transition into the later stages of dementia, providing comfort and assurance to both the individuals and their loved ones. Moreover, early engagement with hospice services can offer essential support and education to caregivers, helping them understand the progression of dementia and preparing them for the challenges ahead.

Our Commitment to Compassionate Care

At United Hospice, we are dedicated to addressing the unique challenges of caring for dementia patients. Our commitment lies in providing compassionate and high-quality care to both patients and their families. Our specialized team receives training in dementia care, equipping them to meet the distinct needs of these patients. We also offer ongoing support and education for caregivers, helping them navigate the challenges of caring for their loved ones.

Our mission at United Hospice is to ensure the emotional and physical well-being of every patient. Quality dementia care has profound and lasting effects on both the mind and spirit, creating a sense of peace and dignity during some of the most challenging times an individual and their family may face. By focusing on the person rather than the disease, personalized care respects and honors the individual’s unique life experiences and personality, preserving their identity and self-worth. This approach can facilitate moments of clarity, happiness, and tranquility, despite the confusion and disorientation often associated with dementia. On a spiritual level, quality dementia care can offer comfort, lessen feelings of isolation, and provide a sense of belonging and purpose. This can profoundly impact the individual’s sense of self and connection to the world around them, fostering a sense of peace in their final stages of life. The lasting impact of such compassionate care can also extend to the bereaved, inspiring them with the strength to navigate their grief and cope with their loss.

It’s never too soon to reach out to our experienced staff who can offer invaluable guidance. Get the answers you need to make the best decisions for you and your family. We are here 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Call 845.634.4974.