While dementia is one of the leading causes of death in the United States, it accounts for only 11 percent of hospice admissions and little is known about the quality of the care they receive, reports the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization. Research published in the July issue of the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, “Hospice Care for Patients with Dementia,” reinforces the value of hospice care for these patients and their family caregivers.
Researchers found that families of patients with dementia evaluated the care received from hospice as highly as patients with other diagnoses. Reports of unmet patient needs for treatment of symptoms were less frequent as well.
“What this tells hospice professionals is that in spite of the challenges of caring for patients with dementia, hospice is indeed beneficial,” said Stephen Connor, NHPCO vice president of research and co-author of the study. “Hospices can effectively help patients struggling with dementia at the end of their lives and providers need to continue reaching out to help those patients and families in need.”
Researchers used data from the Family Evaluation of Hospice Care, an Internet based repository and benchmarking tool that collects data from bereaved families regarding the quality of hospice care. A total of 77,123 surveys submitted by 796 hospices in 2005 were used in this study. Developed by Brown University and NHPCO, the Family Evaluation of Hospice Care lets researchers look at the relationship of length of stay, perceived timing of hospice referral, and quality of end-of-life care.
This research was led by Dr. Susan Mitchell at the Institute for Aging Research at Harvard University, was done in collaboration with the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization and researchers at Brown University and was funded by the Alzheimer’s Association.