End-of-life care and dementia
How can we best support people with dementia to have a good death or to die as they would wish? What particular issues arise for care staff at this time?
Explore the links below to find out about some of the most important areas of care for people with dementia at the end of their life.
End of life care for dementia requires good person-centred care. Living well with dementia also includes supporting a person with dementia to die well, or as they would have wished. Be aware of the range of symptoms that a person with dementia may experience at the end of life. Support family carers and help them to understand what is happening at the end of life.
Pain in advanced dementia
Pain in advanced dementia is a common symptom. People with dementia experience pain just as much as anyone else. Pain in people with dementia is often poorly recognised and undertreated, and yet it is not difficult to treat. Caregivers need to work hard to understand a person's verbal and non-verbal signs that they are in pain. Uncontrolled pain can seriously affect a person's quality of life.
Eating and drinking at the end of life
People with advanced dementia often experience problems with swallowing. Swallowing problems can be well managed. Towards the end of life, a person with dementia may take in very little food and fluids, which may make family carers worry that the person is starving to death, when in fact they are not. Most health professionals now believe that tube feeding at the end of life is not good practice and prefer food and fluids to be given by mouth.
End of life care and carers' needs
Family carers often talk about ‘losing the person they knew’ with dementia before they die. Carers often feel guilty if their relative who has dementia enters a care home. End of life care decisions are not easy for carers. There is a lot you can do to support carers at the end of life of the person with dementia.
Care in the last days and hours of life with dementia
Dying is a natural part of life, and it is important to plan well for the last few days and hours of life. People with dementia should be able to die in comfort, and we can do a lot to help manage symptoms. The support we offer at this time must be in keeping with a person’s wishes, their spiritual views, culture and life history. Family and friends will need emotional support too, and timely and accurate information.