When someone enters a hospice program, it’s natural to have all sorts of questions about how it all works. After all, many residents of Mt. Vernon and elsewhere may know the ultimate purpose but not all the details that make hospice care different from traditional care.
At Above and Beyond Home Health Care and Hospice, we’re always happy to provide any sorts of answers before someone enters the hospice system, along with any questions or concerns that may come up later.
Because we’ve been working with Iowa patients since 2004, we know the entire process of moving to hospice care can feel confusing, stressful and even overwhelming sometimes, so we’re eager to help educate our patients and their families about everything that goes on and what to expect.
Although everyone’s situation may be a little different depending on their particular health condition and estimated time for receiving care, there are still some common experiences and questions we’re often asked about.
After all, whether you’re seeking home health care or hospice care, you want the best for your loved ones, and that includes making sure you find an agency that focuses on their safety and security while consistently providing compassionate care.
Discussions about drugs
One area patients and their families often ask about is medication. This is because there are different philosophies of what a patient should be taking.
Under traditional care, a provider may prescribe certain medications to try to cure or help whatever condition the patient is fighting, or combat or reduce various side effects. The provider also may be concerned about possible long-term effects of certain medications, so may not prescribe certain ones.
However, once someone enters hospice, the focus is different.
Medication is now more about helping a patient’s quality of life, including stronger pain medication. Since there’s no risk of addiction or long-term damage, a provider may feel more comfortable prescribing different medications or different dosages.
There is a fine line, however. A patient may appreciate something to help their pain but they may still want to interact with their loved ones and caregivers. Providers must be cautious in how much of a dosage will help and how much is too much.
Others around them also should keep track of how a particular medication makes them feel and whether it should be increased or decreased as their condition changes. Family members also should take steps to prevent overdoses, which can accidentally or even deliberately take place.
More about morphine
One medication that’s can be used in hospice situations, but carefully, is morphine. It’s a powerful painkiller that can help people relax and ease their pain, but it also needs precise dosage – too little may not help much and too much can easily and quickly cause death.
Morphine is considered highly addictive and highly controlled in traditional medical settings, which is why it isn’t used in many situations other than hospitals or some supervised medical emergencies.
In some cases, some doctors may not immediately want to prescribe morphine “for home use” for people on hospice. It’s one thing to have a skilled nurse or doctor administer it in a controlled setting like a clinic or hospital, but may feel risky to a doctor to send a patient home with a bottle of it and instructions for safe usage and proper dosage.
Doctors may also worry that a patient may take too much on purpose or accidentally, that they would save some for later and give themselves a larger dosage in the future, or that family members or other visitors might steal their supply, leaving the patient with less medication than they need or no pain medication at all.
Communication is key
How much and what kind of medication a patient on hospice care can receive is a discussion that should be held between them, involved family members, caregivers, health care providers, hospice staff/aides, and anyone else involved in their care. It also shouldn’t be a one-time discussion either but something that can evolve as the patient progresses or their health needs change.
This type of clear communication can get everyone on the same page as far as:
- What types of medication are given and why? What types of health conditions can it treat, such as general pain, anxiety, insomnia, depression, etc.
- Who gives the medication, especially some of the more potent items that can cause an overdose? If a patient is unable to take it themselves due to poor coordination or dementia, someone else must be responsible for giving the correct amount at the correct time. This also can give the opportunity for everyone to discuss an appropriate amount, such as something that helps but doesn’t cause them to sleep all the time.
- How is the medication secured before and after dosage? Is there a way to keep it locked when not in use and only give certain people a key? This can avoid any temptations from others in the house to either take some themselves or give at different times.
- What action to take during emergencies. Should more or different medicines be given in certain circumstance? Can anyone authorize this?
Feel free to contact us anytime to discuss medication options.