Dec 29, 2009

Palliative Care in Dementia, a support group meeting

In a well-attended and highly interactive support group meeting arranged by ARDSI, Bangalore Chapter, participants shared their situations and problems with Dr. Neela Patel (Department of Medicine, University of Texas Health Science Center, San Antonio), who suggested approaches they could follow. Dr. Patel, a specialist in palliative care, explained several concepts pertinent in caregiving of dementia patients. She also presented and discussed a number of case studies.

Attendees at the meeting included caregivers of patients who ranged from early to late dementia. Some patients just diagnosed with early dementia were also present. All participants were able to discuss the specific challenges they faced, such as seeing their loved ones suffer from memory loss or coping with abusive and aggressive behavior. Caregivers of patients in later stages of dementia described their problems in handling fully dependent patients, including problems like incontinence and swallowing. Participants also shared their confusion and overwhelm over the decisions they need to make regarding medication and other treatment options.

The focus of palliative care, Dr. Patel explained, is ensuring comfort, and this includes deciding between various options of both care and treatment, while retaining focus on the patient's quality of life. Dr. Patel described scales used to judge the 'stage' of dementia -- the FAST (Functional Assessment) scale, and the PPS (palliative Performance) scale. She explained how options and evaluation changes as the stage changes.

The meeting was covered in DNA, Bangalore (read the coverage here).

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