Last week's episode of WCBA dealt with patients as they approach the end of life and how dificult that time can be for them and for health care professionals. Many of the examples used in the show had to do with patients with cancer and other forms of illness that are often acute. There's another group of patients with chronic illness who could benefit from hospice care yet are even less likely than most Canadians to receive it.
I'm talking about patients with Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia. On WCBA, we cited figures that 70% of patients who could benefit from palliative care actually receive it. If anything, the figures for people with dementia are far worse.
According to statistics from the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, only 11% of Americans who died in hospice care in 2009 had a primary diagnosis of dementia. A 2004 study in the Journal of General Internal Medicine estimated that 90% of patients with dementia do not receive hospice service.
Part of the problem is recognition that the patient is dying. It's been said that patients with dementia die inch by inch, while people with cancer often die much more quickly.
But dementia can kill. Caregivers ought to be able to receive the loving and tender care that others receive.