Alzheimer’s Family Caregivers Making End of Life Decisions

End of life care decisions are among the toughest of the many difficult decisions caregivers face along their journey caring for senior loved ones.

When caring for someone with dementia, especially Alzheimer’s dementia, these decisions can be even more difficult, but planning ahead can help you tread these waters at least a bit more easily. Each decision you will make should target the improvement in quality of life for your senior as the disease progresses.

End Of Life Considerations

  • Treatment goals your senior loved one affected by Alzheimer’s has for him or herself. Knowing the answer to this question will keep you focused when asked to make decisions along the way. What do they want or hope to have happen once they have heard their diagnosis?
  • Knowing how your senior would like to spend his or her final years will help you decide which treatment options to pursue such as medication management or treatment strategies. Will these options help or just complicate the process?
  • Making your senior loved one comfortable is a priority at the end of life because the progress of Alzheimer’s disease is slow. Unfortunately, they likely won’t be able to tell you then what will make them comfortable when the time comes. This is where some advance planning will help. Do they prefer to stay at home, will they want medications to stay comfortable or have some soothing music play to give them comfort?
  • You are not alone in feeling frustration, not only with end of life discussions but also facing all these decisions as the time comes. Adding to your frustration will be the inability of your senior to communicate thoughts, feelings and desires to you at the end of life. You may feel helpless but with some advance planning, perhaps you won’t feel hopeless since you will know that what you are deciding to do is what your senior loved one would want.
  • Reach out for help from healthcare professionals, family, friends and support groups to get you through this difficult time. Healthcare professionals are trained and have had experience with other families and can offer support to you.
  • Don’t overlook the wealth of support that a palliative care or hospice care program can offer you and your senior loved one during the end of life. These special professionals will help you keep your senior comfortable and pain-free at the end of their life as well as support you through your journey of good-bye during and afterward.
  • It is understandable to feel a bit of relief for the loss of your senior loved one who has come through such a long period of decline during the degenerative process of Alzheimer’s in addition to your grief. Even though these are natural emotions, you will need help to cope with the loss so seek support so you can recover.

As difficult as end of life discussions are with any family member, especially our senior loved ones, it is very important to openly discuss everyone’s desires and wishes so they can be met with a minimum of guilt, regret and added trauma when that time actually arrives.

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