Patients dying with dementia: experience at the end of life and impact of hospice care

J Pain Symptom Manage. 2008 May;35(5):499-507. doi: 10.1016/j.jpainsymman.2007.06.011. Epub 2008 Feb 8.


To evaluate the impact hospice enrollment has on the terminal care of patients with dementia and describe the symptom burden these patients experience, caregivers of dementia decedents were assessed in a mortality follow-back survey. Patients had been managed through academic outpatient geriatric clinics in Chicago, IL. A total of 135 family members or other knowledgeable informants of persons who had died with dementia were queried about the patient's preferred location of death, location of death, satisfaction with patient care, and assessment of patient's pain and most bothersome symptom. Patients who were enrolled in hospice were significantly more likely to die in their location of choice (odds ratio [OR] 9.67; 95% confidence interval [CI] 2.57-37.0), and less likely to die in the hospital, (OR 0.04; 95% CI 0.01-0.18), compared to nonenrollees. Caregivers of hospice enrollees were more likely to rate patient care as excellent or very good (OR 5.65; 95% CI 2.61-10.34), compared to nonenrollees. Over 50% of caregivers of hospice enrollees and nonenrollees reported patient pain at a moderate intensity or higher on average in the last two weeks of life. No effect was observed between a caregiver reporting pain at a moderate level or higher and whether the patient was enrolled in hospice (OR 0.58; 95% CI 0.22-1.54). Hospice enrollees did not experience improvement in their most bothersome symptom's frequency, severity, or amount of distress caused (P=0.21, 0.39, 0.95, respectively), compared to nonenrollees. These results suggest that dying patients with dementia who are enrolled in hospice programs are more likely to die in their locations of choice and their caregivers are more likely to perceive that care is excellent or good than those who do not obtain hospice services. No effect on pain or other symptoms could be demonstrated in this analysis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Caregivers / psychology
  • Data Interpretation, Statistical
  • Death
  • Dementia / psychology
  • Dementia / therapy*
  • Family / psychology
  • Female
  • Hospice Care*
  • Humans
  • Male