Hospice providers have increasingly focused on dementia care among the rising demand to support these caregivers and the unique challenges they face. Interim HealthCare is among the providers boosting support for dementia caregivers with a recently launched guide addressing the specific complexities of these patients’ needs.
As the number of seniors with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease climbs throughout the country, so too has the number of those caring for them in the home.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly half of hospice patients on long-term care services were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia in 2015. The Alzheimer’s Association reported in March that the estimated 5.6 million people 65 and older living with age-based dementia is expected to almost triple by 2050, along with the roughly 16 million caring for them.
Overall, 15.6% of Medicare decedents who died in hospice care during 2017 had a primary diagnosis associated with dementia, according to the National Hospice & Palliative Care Organization.
“Dementia is a complicated disease, and no one can do the caregiving alone,” said Jennifer Sheets, president and CEO of Interim HealthCare. “Family caregivers may have difficulty understanding the various stages of dementia, where their loved one is currently in the disease progression, and what they should and can be doing to help in that time frame.”
In partnership with Teepa Snow, founder of Positive Approach to Care (PAC), which provides dementia care training and educational services, Interim HealthCare developed a Dementia Caregiver’s Guide as a resource for family caregivers struggling to both understand and support their loved ones facing different stages of dementia.
“The guide offers practical advice on the stages of disease progression, from recognizing signs and symptoms to providing common tips and insights on how to manage changes over time,” Sheets said. “It highlights the emotional roller coaster of being a caregiver. It identifies all the negative feelings, hopefully allowing the caregiver to feel that this guide truly understands what they are going through and also offers suggestions, education, do’s and don’ts for the caregiver to assist them in their everyday life with the person living with dementia. Realizing that family caregivers have always faced challenges when caring for their loved ones living with dementia, we want to educate families as well.”
As part of Interim HealthCare’s Cognitive Care program focused on dementia, the guide features a model to help identify the current mental state of a person living with dementia for a better understanding of what a loved one may be experiencing at its different stages. Dementia in hospice patients can come with unexpected changes that can be confusing for both the patient and the caregiver to cope with and navigate through. With tips of caring for both oneself and their loved one, the guide utilizes a positive and holistic approach to caring for a loved one with dementia.
Hospice providers have increasingly turned to partnerships with educational resources like these to develop supportive training programs not only for families in the home, but also for their employees and staff. The specialized training is intended to further clinicians in their understanding of a dementia patient’s disease progression and how best to respond to both their needs and those who care for them.
“This guide is written for the family to give them knowledge and confidence and the feeling that someone truly understands what is happening in their home,” Sheets told Hospice News. “When we speak to communities about our dementia program, there is a definite hunger for this information from families that are experiencing this in their daily lives.”