Dementia is a terminal illness where the brain deteriorates slowly until it finally stops working. There is no cure for dementia, and people may die of dementia or from complications that develop as a result of dementia. Patients may not always be aware of the disease and may live for a number of years, while some never reach a terminal stage.
Palliative care is medical care provided by a team of specialists for people facing serious illnesses like dementia. The objective is to improve the quality of life for both, the patient and their family. Palliative care can be had at any age and stage of an illness and can be combined with curative treatment.
Dementia patients slowly lose the recognition of hunger and thirst, and are unable to feed themselves. A patient’s fading memory is accompanied by failing eye-limb coordination, motor skills and the ability to dress and bathe, placing their families under severe and continuous stress.
Another problem is that dementia is difficult to manage because it progresses slowly. As the patient’s condition worsens, family members keep adapting to the slowly worsening condition and begin to do more and more, until they become exhausted to the point of getting sick themselves, sometimes with serious illness.
That is why palliative care is as much about helping the family as it is about treating the patient suffering from the terminal illness.
End of Life Care
End of life care assists patients in the terminal stages of a life-limiting condition to live as well as possible until they die. It also includes supporting families and careers of patients during the period of illness and after the person dies.
End of life care takes into account the following factors related to the wellbeing of a patient, among others:
- Daily needs, such as food, clothing, cleanliness, etc.
- Physical needs, such as pain relief, physiotherapy, etc.
- Medical needs, such as checkups, timely provision of medicines, etc.
- Emotional needs, such as love, compassion, etc.
- Relationship needs, such as companionship, meeting with near and dear ones, etc.
- Spiritual needs, such as assistance for prayers, sermons, etc.
End of life care may last for days, weeks, months or even years – because it is difficult to know exactly when a person with dementia or a fatal illness is going to die. There must always be an up-to-date end of life care plan which is shared with those who are involved in the patient’s care.