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People with End-Stage Alzheimer’s
Need More Palliative Care
By Jennifer B. Buckley

(Page 2 of 2)

Both groups of patients received almost identical care practices in their hospital stay including; painful diagnostic and therapeutic procedures which can be extremely frightening for an end-stage dementia patient who doesn’t understand what is happening to him or her. However, the patients with end-stage dementia received less pain medication than the cognitively intact adults. “The under treatment of pain in dementia patients likely results from the fact that these patients often cannot communicate what they are feeling or that they are in pain,” according to Dr. R. Sean Morrison, Assistant Professor, The Lillian and Benjamin Hertzberg Palliative Care Institute at Mount Sinai. Doctors and nurses sometimes don’t realize these patients are in pain so “standing orders” for pain medication such as morphine should be given, meaning with or without the expressed interest of the patient. 

This new evidence will help to persuade doctors and caregivers to view pneumonia or hip fractures as a terminal illness in advanced stage Alzheimer’s patients, even with aggressive treatment. Therefore, communication about the course of treatment should be established between the physician and caregiver, weighing the patient’s level of comfort against life-prolonging treatments. Caregivers, caring for a loved-one with end-stage dementia or Alzheimer’s, should communicate interest to their doctor’s about more comprehensive palliative care. This will ensure more comfort for their loved-one during their end-of-life care.


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