When Should You Seek Hospice Care For A Parent With Alzheimer's Or Dementia?

You may associate hospice care with end-of-life treatment for terminal cancer patients and others who have been diagnosed with an illness that will cause a quick decline. However, if your parent or other loved one who suffers from Alzheimer's disease or another type of dementia, both you and your parent may benefit from seeking hospice treatment. Read on to learn some of the specific therapies and treatments available for dementia patients, as well as how you or your parent may be able to pay for this hospice care.

What hospice care is available for dementia patients?

Hospice care for Alzheimer's or dementia patients is designed to help ease symptoms of the illness while maintaining the patient's dignity in his or her last days. Because dementia patients have trouble feeding, swallowing, and urinating on their own, they're particularly susceptible to infections like pneumonia or bladder infections. Treating these conditions (rather than simply helping family members to recognize common symptoms of pain) can lead to unnecessary complications or extend life once the qualify of life has diminished.

When should you help your parent seek hospice care?

Hospice care can be sought whenever your parent's physician has indicated there isn't much time left. Whether this is weeks, months, or a longer period of time, hospice care can help ensure that your parent is safe and comfortable without resorting to artificial means of extending life. Hospice care can often be used as an alternative to hospital or nursing home care to help your parent remain in a familiar setting during his or her last days.

How can you or your parent pay for this care?

Fortunately, there are a number of ways you and your parent can help pay for hospice care without breaking the bank. If your parent is over age 65, he or she likely qualifies for Medicare hospice coverage at little to no out of pocket cost. If your parent is under age 65 but has few assets to his or her name and little income, he or she may qualify for Medicaid coverage that can help defray the costs of hospice treatment. And if your parent has a private health insurance plan, it may cover more than you think.

If you don't have a durable power of attorney for your parent, it can be useful to get one in order to help arrange and pay for care. Once your relative is no longer able to make responsible decisions for him or herself, you'll be able to obtain a legal document that allows you to stand in his or her place with regard to legal and financial decisions.