It's crucial to understand the nuances of hospice eligibility for diverse types of dementia. Each form of dementia, such as Alzheimer's disease and other related conditions, may have specific criteria that determine when a patient is eligible for . Let's explore the key differences and criteria to help you confidently navigate these situations.

Alzheimer’s Disease and FAST Scale

Fast Scale
Source: https://www.grepmed.com/images/631/stage-fast-hospice-score-assessment-72

Alzheimer's disease is a brain disorder that affects memory, thinking, and behavior. It is the most common cause of dementia, which is a general term for a decline in mental abilities that interferes with daily life. Alzheimer's disease gets worse over time and has no cure.

One way to measure how Alzheimer's disease affects a person's function is to use the Functional Assessment Staging (FAST) scale. This scale has seven stages describing the impairment level in different areas of daily living, such as dressing, eating, and speaking. The FAST scale can help hospice nurses determine if a patient with Alzheimer's disease is eligible for , which focuses on comfort and quality of life for people with terminal illnesses.

Stage 7 on the FAST Scale: Patients with Alzheimer's disease who have reached Stage 7 on the FAST scale are typically considered eligible for hospice care. This stage is the most severe and indicates that the patient has lost most of their abilities to function independently. Patients at this stage may have the following symptoms:

  • Incontinence: The patient cannot control their bladder or bowel movements and may need diapers or pads.
  • Inability to communicate meaningfully: The patient can only say a few words or none at all and cannot understand or respond to others.
  • Non-ambulatory means that the patient cannot walk or stand independently and may need a wheelchair or a bed.
  • Loss of all intelligible vocabulary: The patient cannot say any words that make sense and may only make sounds or noises.
  • Inability to sit up independently: The patient cannot sit up without support and may need a recliner or a pillow.
  • Inability to smile: The patient cannot show facial expression and may look blank or sad.
  • Inability to hold head up: The patient cannot keep their head up and may need a neck brace or a pillow.

Hospice nurses should be aware of these symptoms and provide compassionate care to patients with Alzheimer's disease in the terminal stage. Hospice care can help patients and their families cope with the physical, emotional, and spiritual challenges of this terminal stage.

Other Forms of Dementia and Modified Criteria

Dementia is not a single disease but a term that describes a range of symptoms that affect a person's memory, thinking, and behavior. There are many different causes and types of dementia, and each one may have different effects on a person's function and quality of life. Some of the most common types of dementia, besides Alzheimer's disease, are:

  • Vascular dementia: This type of dementia is caused by problems with blood flow to the brain, such as strokes or mini-strokes. It can affect a person's ability to plan, organize, and make decisions, as well as their mood and personality.
  • Lewy body dementia: This type of dementia is caused by abnormal deposits of a protein called alpha-synuclein in the brain. It can affect a person's attention, alertness, and visual perception and cause and movement problems.
  • Frontotemporal dementia: This type of dementia is caused by damage to the front and temporal lobes of the brain, which are responsible for language, behavior, and emotions. It can affect a person's speech, comprehension, and social skills and cause impulsivity and apathy.

Because these types of dementia have different causes and symptoms, they may also have different criteria for hospice eligibility. Hospice care is a special kind of care that provides comfort and support to people who have a life-limiting illness and a prognosis of six months or less. Hospice care can help patients and their families cope with the physical, emotional, and spiritual challenges of living with a terminal illness. Here are some factors to consider when determining hospice eligibility for patients with other forms of dementia:

  • Clinical Judgment and Functional Assessment: Hospice eligibility for patients with other forms of dementia depends on the hospice team's professional judgment, the patient's functional assessment, and the family members' input. The hospice team should evaluate the patient's condition, history, prognosis, and the family's goals and preferences. The functional assessment should measure the patient's level of independence and ability to perform basic tasks, such as eating, bathing, dressing, and toileting. The input of the family members should reflect their observations and concerns about the patient's health and well-being.
  • Functional Assessment Tools: Various tools can help the hospice team assess the patient's functional status and decline. One of them is the FAST scale, commonly used for patients with Alzheimer's disease but can also be applied to other types of dementia. The FAST scale has seven stages describing the impairment in different areas of daily living. Patients who are at Stage 7, which is the most severe, are usually eligible for hospice care. Other tools that can be used for specific types of dementia include the scale, the GDS scale, and the MMSE scale. These tools can provide valuable information about the patient's cognitive, behavioral, and physical decline and help determine eligibility based on the progression of the disease to a terminal state.
  • Co-morbid Conditions: Another factor that can affect hospice eligibility for patients with other forms of dementia is the presence of co-morbid conditions, which are diseases or illnesses that are distinct from terminal illnesses. Co-morbid conditions can worsen the patient's functional impairment and shorten their life expectancy. Some examples of co-morbid conditions that can support a prognosis of six months or less are:
    • Recurrent or persistent infections, such as pneumonia, urinary tract infections, or sepsis
    • Malnutrition or dehydration, resulting in weight loss, muscle wasting, or low albumin levels.
    • Pressure ulcers, skin breakdown, or wounds that do not heal.
    • Aspiration, choking, or difficulty swallowing.
    • Respiratory failure, congestive heart failure, or .
    • Cancer, , or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

It is important to remember that hospice eligibility is not based solely on a specific diagnosis but rather on the overall decline in the patient's health, functional limitations, and the progression of their illness. Each patient is unique and deserves individualized care and attention. Collaboration with the interdisciplinary hospice team, including physicians, nurses, social workers, and other healthcare professionals, is essential in making well-informed and compassionate decisions. Hospice nurses should respect the dignity and wishes of patients with different types of dementia and help them have a peaceful and comfortable end of life.

The Role of Clinical Judgment and Communication

As a , you have a unique and significant role in caring for patients with dementia and their families. You are not only a skilled clinician but also a compassionate communicator and a strong advocate. Your clinical judgment and communication skills are essential in assessing and supporting the eligibility of patients with dementia for hospice care. Here are some key points to keep in mind:

  • Regular Assessments: Dementia is a progressive and unpredictable disease that affects each person differently. Therefore, it is essential to continuously monitor patients with dementia and document their over time. Regular assessments can help you identify changes in the patient's condition, such as cognitive, behavioral, and physical symptoms, and evaluate their impact on the patient's quality of life. Regular assessments can also help you determine if the patient meets the criteria for hospice eligibility, a prognosis of six months or less if the disease follows its natural course.
  • Collaboration: Dementia is a complex and challenging disease affecting the patient, family, and caregivers. Therefore, it is vital to engage in open and compassionate communication with family members and other members of the healthcare team. Their input, observations, and understanding of the patient's condition are crucial in determining eligibility and providing appropriate care. Collaboration can also help you address the patient's and their family's emotional and spiritual needs and offer them support and guidance throughout the hospice journey.
  • Documentation: Documentation is a vital part of the hospice eligibility determination process. It provides evidence and justification for the and the ongoing . Therefore, ensuring that your documentation is accurate and thorough and reflects the patient's current condition and prognosis is essential. Your documentation should clearly outline the nature and condition causing the , including specific functional assessments and any co-morbid conditions. Your documentation should also demonstrate the patient's decline and progression of the disease and the impact on their quality of life.

As a , you can make a positive difference in the lives of patients with dementia and their families. Using your clinical judgment and communication skills, you can help them access hospice care, providing comfort, dignity, and peace at the end of life.

Conclusion

Dementia is a severe and life-limiting condition that affects millions of people around the world. Hospice care can provide comfort and support to patients with dementia and their families at the end of life. However, determining hospice eligibility for patients with dementia can be challenging and complex, as different types of dementia have different criteria and symptoms. As a hospice nurse, you play a vital role in assessing and advocating for the eligibility of patients with dementia. By using your clinical judgment, communication skills, and functional assessment tools, you can help patients with dementia access hospice care and improve their quality of life. Hospice care can also allow you to make a positive difference in the lives of patients with dementia and their families and provide them with dignity, peace, and compassion.

Resources

Global Deterioration Scale (GDS)

Understanding Changes in Palliative Performance Scale in the Last Six Months of Life

The Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE)

My Loved One with Dementia

Understanding Dementia (Alzheimer's & Vascular & Frontotemporal & Lewy Body Dementia) (Video)

How Do I Know Which Dementia I'm Looking At? (Video)

Dementia Training material (Free)

Promoting Meaningful Relationships with Dementia Patients through Validation Therapy

Unlocking the Power of Validation Therapy in Compassionate End-of-Life Care

Validation Therapy: A Valuable Tool for Families and Healthcare Teams

Best Practices for Approaching Combative Dementia Patients

The Validation Breakthrough: Simple Techniques for Communicating with People with Alzheimer's Disease and Other Dementias

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How Do I Know You? Dementia at the End of Life

The Dementia Caregiver: A Guide to Caring for Someone with Alzheimer's Disease and Other Neurocognitive Disorders (Guides to Caregiving)

Sundown Dementia, Vascular Dementia and Lewy Body Dementia Explained

The Caregiver's Guide to Dementia: Practical Advice for Caring for Yourself and Your Loved One (Caregiver's Guides)

Ahead of Dementia: A Real-World, Upfront, Straightforward, Step-by-Step Guide for Family Caregivers

The Dementia Caregiver's Survival Guide: An 11-Step Plan to Understand the Disease and How To Cope with Financial Challenges, Patient Aggression, and Depression Without Guilt, Overwhelm, or Burnout

Dementia Care Companion: The Complete Handbook of Practical Care from Early to Late Stage

As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. The amount generated from these “qualifying purchases” helps to maintain this site.

The 36-Hour Day: A Family Guide to Caring for People Who Have Alzheimer's Disease and Other Dementias

Dementia Home Care: How to Prepare Before, During, and After

The Dementia Caregiver's Survival Guide: An 11-Step Plan to Understand the Disease and How To Cope with Financial Challenges, Patient Aggression, and Depression Without Guilt, Overwhelm, or Burnout

Fading Reflection: Understanding the complexities of Dementia

Dementia Caregiving: A Self Help Book for Dementia Caregivers Offering Practical Coping Strategies and Support to Overcome Burnout, Increase Awareness, and Build Mental & Emotional Resilience

Navigating the Dementia Journey: A Compassionate Guide to Understanding, Supporting, and Living With Dementia

Ahead of Dementia: A Real-World, Upfront, Straightforward, Step-by-Step Guide for Family Caregivers

Four Common Mistakes by Caregivers of Loved Ones with Dementia and What Do Differently (video)

Eldercare Locator: a nationwide service that connects older Americans and their caregivers with trustworthy local support resources

As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. The amount generated from these “qualifying purchases” helps to maintain this site.

My Aging Parent Needs Help!: 7-Step Guide to Caregiving with No Regrets, More Compassion, and Going from Overwhelmed to Organized [Includes Tips for Caregiver Burnout]

Take Back Your Life: A Caregiver's Guide to Finding Freedom in the Midst of Overwhelm

The Conscious Caregiver: A Mindful Approach to Caring for Your Loved One Without Losing Yourself

Dear Caregiver, It's Your Life Too: 71 Self-Care Tips To Manage Stress, Avoid Burnout, And Find Joy Again While Caring For A Loved One

Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I've Loved

The Art of Dying

Final Gifts: Understanding the Special Awareness, Needs, and Communications of the Dying

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