Consider Dementia’s Physical Effects When Making Treatment Decisions

When thinking about the effects of dementia, most people view it as a disease that solely affects the mind– a debilitating illness that strips an individual of his/her memories, but appears to leave the rest of the body untouched.  However, a recent article in the New York Times reminds us that the body undergoes a physical attack as well as a mental attack.  The illness is progressive and as it weakens the brain it also shuts down the body.  Doctors advise that these often-overlooked physical tolls must be understood and taken into consideration when considering the future care of your loved ones. 

 The article explains that the lack of understanding about the physical effects of dementia means that many patients near the end of life are subjected to aggressive treatments, many of which cannot possibly help them, or can even increase symptoms such as confusion and anxiety.  Researchers in a recent Harvard study found there were stark differences in treatment decisions depending on what family members knew about dementia.  Dr. Susan L. Mitchell, the study’s lead author, explained, “When family members understood the clinical course of dementia and the poor prognosis, the patients were far less likely to undergo these distressing interventions.”  She concluded that, “Dementia is a terminal illness and needs to be recognized as such so these patients receive better palliative care.” 

For the full article, click here.

For more information on long-term care planning for yourself or a loved one, contact the attorneys at Janna Dutton & Associates.

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