How to Make Hospice Meaningful for Patients with Dementia


Hospice experts in Los Angeles CA say that at least 5 million people in the United States are currently living with age-related forms of dementia. As you may or may not know, dementia is a general term for cognitive decline that interferes with a person’s daily life. Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 60-80% of dementia cases, although it is not the only cause of dementia for patients.


When considering hospice or palliative care, many people think that dementia patients are at a loss for help. This is not the case. In fact, many dementia and Alzheimer’s dementia patients can experience great joy and satisfaction in hospice care when they are treated accordingly. The key is recognizing the person apart from their mental decline and then adjusting care to fit their needs.

Dementia patients who receive hospice care are all unique. You have to consider their personal history, family history, and everything else that sets them apart from other patients. While it is important to have general strategies for dealing with cognitive decline in patients, there should always be a personal approach. Treat the person, not the disease. 

That being said, hospice experts in Los Angeles CA like Faith and Hope Hospice have a great many tools at their disposal to assess a person’s level and form of dementia, including:

  • Palliative Performance Scales 
  • Mini Mental Status Exams
  • Functional Assessment Staging Tools
  • Personal/medical history

One of the most important things to establish with dementia patients is proper communication. Cognitive decline can be very frustrating for both the patient and the family. There are methods for easing this transition into hospice care and creating a bond of trust between patient and caretaker. Many patients with dementia may require a family member to speak on their behalf which is why it is important to have people nearby who fully understand the patient’s cognitive struggles and personal needs.

Patients living with dementia experience more than memory loss. In the case of both dementia and Alzheimer’s, the temporal lobe of the brain is affected, which can affect language processes. Early on in the disease, patients may experience a decline in vocabulary, comprehension, and speech production which makes it very hard to communicate verbally. Dementia patients may show symptoms such as confusion, word loss, and decreased speech during a conversation. In more extreme cases, dementia patients may lose formal language completely and need to rely on non-verbal cues to convey their feelings. 

Understanding dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, as well as a patient’s individual struggles, is the first step to treating patients with patience and empathy. When a dementia patient misuses a word or forgets a name, they may feel foolish and undignified. In order to help them through this frustration, hospice care workers are compassionate and non-judgmental. They encourage the patient to express themselves in what way they can without forcing them to overexert. 

While a dementia patient experiences a cognitive decline in the left side of their brain, the right side often remains healthy and intact. Language processes may begin to fade but a patient can still experience joy through more creative modes of expression. Dancing, making music, reciting poetry, clapping, tapping, and chanting will often remain strong in many dementia patients. This means that their day-to-day lives can still be filled with fun, satisfying activities.

Many patients with dementia enjoy the tactile and mental stimulation of arts and crafts. This allows them a feeling of control and creative expression. Making or listening to music can also be therapeutic for patients, especially if it reminds them of happier times in their life and allows them to bond with current family members. 

It can be very helpful to have reassuring items placed all around a dementia patient in order to reorient them in time and place as well as soothe any anxieties. Pictures, plants, family heirlooms, and other happy and familiar objects can help remind a patient that they are in a safe environment and that they are being cared for. Whenever a patient becomes confused or fearful, they may require this kind of physical anchoring in order to calm them down and distract them from their mental panic. 

Here are some ways that family members and caregivers can approach non-stressful interactions with a dementia patient: 

  • Smile at them
  • Call them by their name
  • Limit distractions and loud stimulation
  • Avoid open-ended questions and keep things simple in conversation
  • Speak slowly and clearly with uncomplicated words
  • Have patience with their responses
  • Redirect their anxiety
  • Remind them where they are

Hospice care for dementia patients requires a little more creativity. Since communication can be difficult, this means that caretakers must learn how to read cues and know how to soothe emotional or physical distress. There may be subtle differences in symptoms of anxiety and symptoms of pain; however, they will become more apparent to caregivers that are fully integrated into the patient’s care. Music therapy, pet therapy, and other forms of holistic treatment can be integrated into patient’s daily life in order to ease their stress and fears. The best way to gain trust with the patient is to spend time with them, get to know their needs, and understand their struggles. 

Our team at Faith & Hope Hospice & Palliative Care is prepared to offer meaningful care for dementia and Alzheimer’s dementia patients through holistic strategies and a personal approach. If you or a loved one is in need of end-of-life care, please contact Faith & Hope at (877) 797-1977. You can also visit our website to learn more about our range of services and collect some useful resources about hospice care: