It’s devastating to watch a loved one in the late stages of Alzheimer’s dementia. A grandson visits his grandmother in her nursing home, and for one precious but fleeting moment she recognizes him. Then the expression on her face goes blank as the disease pulls her back into its fog. Alzheimer’s has turned his highly educated, quick-witted grandmother into a shell of her former self.
Alzheimer’s ravages the brain, robbing people of their cognition and eventually their body’s ability to function. It’s especially frightening because it typically strikes during a person’s senior years when other aging processes are already making them more vulnerable.
While research continues into treatments, with prospects for a cure still far off, the disease is striking more and more people. How many? Imagine a city with the combined population of Los Angeles and Chicago — about 6.5 million people.
That’s the estimated number of individuals age 65 and older in the U.S. living with Alzheimer’s dementia in 2022 — approximately 1 in 9 people — 73% of whom are age 75 or older. The disease also comes with staggering costs, projected to hit nearly $1 trillion in the U.S. by 2050, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
Alzheimer’s is one of many tragedies that bring people to the end of their lives. Stroke, lung disease, heart conditions, cancers, and kidney failure join Alzheimer’s as the leading causes of or contributors to the death of people who have entered into hospice care, according to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO).
As the NHPCO explains, “Hospice focuses on caring, not curing, and in most cases, care is provided in the patient’s home. Hospice care also is provided in freestanding hospice centers, hospitals, and nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. Hospice care is covered under Medicare, Medicaid, most private insurance plans, HMOs, and other managed care organizations.”
Hospice care is related to but different from palliative care. Palliative care, says the NHPCO, “focuses on easing pain and discomfort, reducing stress, and helping people have the highest quality of life possible. It is appropriate at any age and any stage of a serious illness, not just end-of-life.”
November is both National Hospice Palliative Care Month and National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month. It is a time when everyone at Healthcare Management Solutions, LLC (HMS) is even more acutely tuned in to the importance of protecting vulnerable seniors, veterans and others who rely on healthcare and long-term care facilities. HMS compassionately and skillfully conducts surveys and provides oversight of the quality of healthcare delivery to ensure that federal and state regulations are met.