Nursing Specialties: Palliative Care for Alzheimer’s Patients

Nurse holding an elderly person's hand

Many prospective LVN students and new nursing professionals will find many job opportunities for different types of specialties. Palliative care for memory-affected patients is an important and growing area in healthcare. Nurses in this field work with patients who need quite a bit of hands-on care, and often help families and loved ones through a difficult and challenging time. If you think you are interested in working with patients impacted by dementia and Alzheimer’s, read more to find out if you’re a good fit for this career path.

Palliative Care Explained

Many patients with chronic, life-changing illnesses require palliative care. Nurses who work within palliative care treatment teams will interact with doctors, social workers, occasionally chaplains, and physical therapists to ensure a patient’s long-term comfort.

Alzheimer’s does not impact every patient in the same ways. Many patients will decline quickly while others may drift away over time. Some families may prefer to hospice their relatives at home, so it’s not out of the question that palliative nurses will make home visits for very sick or infirm patients. There are an increasing number of hospice centers specifically for dementia patients, particularly in California, if you prefer to work within a clinical environment.

Alzheimer’s Care

An Alzheimer’s palliative care nurse should be prepared to:

  • Follow non-verbal cues to understand a patient’s mood and physical state
  • Instruct family and other caregivers in patient support and care
  • Provide emotional support for both patients and caregivers
  • Explain symptomatic behavior to family members
  • Follow-through with all aspects of living wills and advance directives
  • Maintaining quality of life for patients and their loved ones
  • Distribute medication related to the neurological symptoms as well as secondary conditions

How to Become an Alzheimer’s Care Nurse

Once you have become a licensed vocational nurse or a registered nurse, you are eligible to work in palliative care. Many schools offer specific courses in elderly and palliative care, but if you are interested in this field and a job isn’t immediately available, employers also value experience with all late-stage diseases and patients that struggle with other neurological disorders and mobility issues.

The most important skill that any nurse working with this population needs is compassion. These patients can become emotional and erratic, and the disease is particularly hard on families. If you’re interested in learning more about the specialty, you may want to spend some time checking out the Hospice and Palliative Care Nursing Association’s resources.  

For more information about Alzheimer’s disease, visit the Alzheimer’s Association website.

Before you can begin any journey into a nursing specialty, you need to enroll in an accredited program (ideally an accelerated one) and pass your certification exams. Contact us for more information about your new career today.


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