Palliative care involves taking active steps to discover what comforts an individual: what gives someone pleasure and what might cause unnecessary pain and suffering. Providing palliative care for people in the advanced stages of dementia can be especially challenging, but it can also be particularly rewarding. A focus on palliative care can help keep people with dementia comfortable and free of the frustrations or pain that can trigger “problem” behaviors.

On April 29, labor and management stakeholders from more than 20 nursing homes gathered to discuss how to best provide palliative care to people with advanced dementia in long-term care settings. The conference, “Palliative Care for People with Dementia: Why Comfort Matters,” was presented by Quality Care Community (QCC), a collaboration between 1199SEIU and the Continuing Care Leadership Coalition; the Alzheimer’s Association, NYC Chapter; and the Mount Sinai Hospital Center for the Advancement of Palliative Care.

Nursing staff from Cobble Health Center, Isabella Geriatric Center and Jewish Home Lifecare discussed how providing residents with their favorite food, for instance, can help them feel more comfortable. One family member shared how staff worked with her to ensure that her husband’s preferences were honored.

Workshops focused on areas such as assessing pain in people with advanced dementia, offering a variety of food choices, creating comfort-focused care plans and best practices in connecting with patients.

In a session titled “Meaningful Engagement: What A Difference A Moment Can Make,” Maribeth Gallagher, Director of the Dementia Program for the Hospice of the Valley in Phoenix, Arizona, talked about using music, aroma therapy, touch, spiritual support, and comfort foods such as pudding and ice cream to create meaningful connections and provide comfort. . “Some patients may connect with music or animals. Healthcare providers have to find out about their patients’ likes and dislikes to provide comfort,” she said. Another session discussed how to assess pain in people with advanced dementia, covering behaviors that suggest that a person with dementia is in pain.

For more information about the QCC Conference and the use of palliative care with dementia patients, please contact Janice Dabney at [email protected].

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