Medical intervention decisions
Sometimes, the hardest part is deciding how much medical care the person will be getting. If the person has already told you or has written down his wishes, this makes it easier. However, if you or someone else has to make the decision, it is important that you understand what the different levels of medical care involve.
The following chart outlines the different care strategies that you will need to understand when making decisions in the late stage of the disease:
|Extraordinary medical care
||This type of treatment prolongs life as long as possible by using all available types of treatment. This could mean putting someone with late-stage Alzheimer's disease on kidney dialysis for kidney failure, using tube feeding when she can no longer swallow, or using cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) to restart the heart.
|Conservative medical care
||This type of treatment maintains or improves the current health status. For someone with Alzheimer's disease, it might include using blood pressure medication to treat high blood pressure, insulin for diabetes or setting a fractured hip.
|Comfort or palliative care
||This type of treatment provides comfort when there is no treatment for an illness and death is near. Pain control is a priority, as is the emotional and spiritual support to the individual and the family.
Another decision to be considered in the late stage is whether or not an autopsy should be performed after the person has died. Some people need to know, without a doubt, if the person had Alzheimer's disease. Other people may wish to help research by donating brain tissue. Plans for an autopsy or tissue donation must be decided before the person dies. If you are the one affected, speak to the doctor about your wishes. If you are the caregiver, use what you know about the person and speak to the doctor about the options. Since protocols are different from place to place, your local Alzheimer Society can help you with questions you may have.
For information on donating brain tissue for research, contact the following centres:
Maritime Brain Tissue Bank
Department of Anatomy & Neurobiology
Room 12D, Faculty of Medicine
Halifax, Nova Scotia B3H 1X5
Phone: (902) 494-2007
Douglas Hospital Research Centre Brain Bank
(Donors must be Quebec residents)
6875 LaSalle Blvd.
Verdun, QC H4H 1R3
Tel: (514) 761-6131, ext. 0 and ask for the Brain Bank
Last Updated: 12/13/11