June is Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, worldwide, more than 55 million people are living with Alzheimer’s or another dementia. More than 6 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s or another dementia and in South Dakota 18,000 people aged 65 and older are living with Alzheimer’s. Six percent of people aged 45 and older have subjective cognitive decline.
For individuals living with Alzheimer’s and other dementia, early Advance Care Planning is important. As the disease progresses, individuals lose their ability to make informed decisions about their future healthcare needs. Family members often make decisions on behalf of the person with dementia.
When Advance Care Planning is completed in the early stages of the disease, the person can express their values, goals and wishes for future healthcare to their family and healthcare providers. This eliminates confusion and reduces the stress families face when making decisions for their loved one if they have not discussed the person’s wishes. Healthcare providers are better able to create a personalized care plan based on information learned in the discussion with their patients.
It also allows for the introduction and creation of legal and medical documents that reflect the wishes identified during the discussion such as a durable medical power of attorney to name a surrogate decision maker when the person no longer has capacity to make informed decisions. The Comfort One transportable medical order for South Dakota EMS can be signed for those individuals who do not want CPR or mechanical ventilation. Finally, the South Dakota Medical Order for Scope of Treatment (MOST) can be discussed including when it would be appropriate to complete one as the disease progresses.
Take advantage of Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month and put a plan in place on how you will provide Advance Care Planning for your patients living with Alzheimer’s and related disorders. The Conversation Project has a Starter Kit specific for those individuals with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia that you can share with your patients and their families to get the conversation started.
Visit the Alzheimer’s Association website for more information on Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month.