Understanding Hospice Care and Alzheimer’s


A person with late-stage Alzheimer’s needs intensive, round-the-clock care.

Alzheimer’s is a terrifying disease with no known cure. It is also a progressive disease, which means that if someone with Alzheimer’s doesn’t die from another cause, they will eventually succumb to Alzheimer’s. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States. This isn’t meant to scare or overwhelm you. If you have a loved one with Alzheimer’s it is important that you prepare for every stage of the disease, including the last stage. It may be uncomfortable to think about, but eventually your loved one may require hospice care. Let’s look at what hospice care entails and what you can expect if your loved one should reach this stage.

Understanding the Last Stage of Alzheimer’s

Every person with Alzheimer’s is different, but given enough time, each will pass through the three stages of the disease. Sometimes this progression takes years, and your loved one can live a relatively normal and high quality life for a long time. Eventually, though, the disease will progress, stealing away their ability to perform even basic functions of daily life.

The third and final stage of Alzheimer’s often includes these symptoms:

  • An inability to speak and communicate
  • Difficulty walking or inability to walk
  • Difficulty eating and swallowing
  • Inability to recognize family members and friends
  • High vulnerability to infection

A person with late-stage Alzheimer’s needs intensive, round-the-clock care. They will require help with feeding, toileting, and bathing. Caregivers need to also monitor them for infections, bed sores, and illness.

This amount of caregiving is often too much for family members to shoulder alone. In most cases, those in the advanced stage of Alzheimer’s require professional care. They may even be best served by hospice care.

What Is Hospice Care?

Some people crudely think of hospice care as a place people go to die. In reality, hospice care provides a very specialized type of care that focuses on providing a patient with comfort and dignity at the end of life.

Those who enter hospice care have been diagnosed by a doctor as having six months or less to live. These are terminally ill patients for whom full recovery is extremely unlikely. What sets hospice care apart from other care models is that it focuses on comfort, such as pain management, rather than curing the patient’s condition.

Hospice care also provides a highly experienced staff of nurses, doctors, and caregivers who can provide the intensive care most hospice patients require. Another unique aspect of hospice care is that its practitioners provide counseling and grief support to family members.

Although no one ever wants a family member or themselves to require hospice care, it isn’t something to fear. Hospice care provides dignity to your loved one and gives them the highest quality of life possible during a difficult situation. Many family members are actually surprised by how comforting the process can be and how it can help them say goodbye the right way.

How to Get Hospice Care

In order to seek hospice care for your loved one, you’ll need a referral from a medical doctor who believes your loved one is terminally ill and has six months or less to live. Some hospitals include hospice care units, and you can also find standalone hospice programs.

At Sunshine Care, we are a fully integrated memory care facility designed to care for our residents at every level of the disease. This includes having a hospice care unit on our property. The beauty of our system is that our residents can stay in our community and receive increasing levels of care as needed over time. This ensures less disruption for our residents and their families and allows them to always receive the care they need.

Not surprisingly, we think our system provides the best support and personalized care for people with Alzheimer’s and their families. If you live in Poway or the San Diego County area and would like to tour our facility and see our hospice capabilities, please contact us to schedule a tour today.


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