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About Dementia Palliative Care

What is dementia palliative care?

Dementia causes a person to have difficulties in areas which are key to planning for and ensuring a good death such as difficulty with communication, diminishing capacity and uncertainty about prognosis. Dementia is unique as it is recommended that palliative care principles are introduced early in the disease trajectory.

Dementia palliative care can be understood both as a set of principles that underpin an approach to care and as a type of service that is provided (National Dementia Strategy, 2014). Dementia palliative care reflects the qualities of person-centred dementia care and the holisitic focus of palliative care. Palliative care needs can arise at any time in the course of the person’s condition and should be responded to at an appropriate level throughout the care pathway.

Dementia palliative care actively treats distressing symptoms (these can be physical, psychological and/or emotional) to optimise quality of life of people with dementia and their families, knowing that the underlying cause cannot be cured. Dementia palliative care involves supporting the person with dementia and his or her family to address and relieve the pain, distress and discomfort associated with advancing dementia and invite them to participate in making decisions about their future care.

To learn more about dementia palliative care as an approach in Ireland, click on each icon to read the full report:

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Why is this approach to care important?

  • People with dementia are at very high risk of receiving poor end-of-life care.
  • Dementia is often not recognised as a progressive or terminal illness.
  • People with dementia are less likely to be referred to specialist palliative care.
  • People with dementia are at risk of poor symptom management and the inappropriate use of burdensome treatments such as use of restraints, use of some medications, artificial nutrition and hydration and being transferred to hospital inappropriately.
  • People with dementia have a unique set of care needs that need additional emphasis and skills.
  • People with dementia should have opportunities to make informed decisions about their future care at an early stage of their condition and have their palliative care needs addressed.
  • Planning future care can optimise comfort care at end of life, enabling a person with dementia to live well until they die.
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