In order to qualify for hospice care in Burbank CA, a patient must be diagnosed with six months or less to live, given their current illness. At this stage in their journey, they are likely experiencing many painful and uncomfortable symptoms. Advanced stages of any disease can wear down even the strongest person. So, how does a hospice in Burbank CA address this problem? How do hospice care workers alleviate the worst of a patient’s disease in order to provide peace of mind and comfort in their last days? The answer begins with the idea of pain management.
When a patient enters into hospice care, they can expect to be treated with holistic practices. This means not only focusing on the body, but also the mind and spirit. In this approach to health, everything is connected. Pain and emotional distress are often linked, with one causing or exacerbating the other at any given point. It can be difficult to break the cycle if you do not tackle the whole issue.
Hospice care experts of Faith and Hope Hospice and Palliative Care in Burbank CA begin pain management with a thorough assessment of the patient. Pain is an intangible and personal agitator. It can be difficult to understand unless you have experienced a similar feeling. Fortunately, hospice care workers have developed a scale for patients to estimate the total value of their pain and use that as a comparison point from what they know about the disease and other patients who have experienced these symptoms. Pain is ranked from 0 to 10, 10 being the most unbearable type of pain and 0 being the no pain at all.
Hospice care experts gather what data they can from the patient’s description and ranking of their pain as well as visible indicators that they can easily observe upon evaluation. For patients that are unable to communicate, this is an especially valuable skill. Hospice care workers are trained to notice the subtler signs of pain, including wincing, clenching, heavy breathing, and restless moving.
Once a patient is thoroughly evaluated, hospice services will create a pain management plan that will then be discussed with the family or whoever is entitled to making decisions for the patient’s end-of-life care. Typically, their pain management will involve the diagnosis of certain medications. Here are some of the most common medications used for pain management:
- Acetaminophen – One of the most commonly prescribed hospice medications. This generally works to reduce fevers and relieve mild to moderate pain.
- NSAIDs (Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs) – Drugs like ibuprofen may be prescribed to alleviate mild to moderate pain.
- Steroids – These can be used to alleviate symptoms related to the patient’s pain. For example, dexamethasone may be prescribed to reduce swelling.
- Antidepressants – Mental health and pain levels have been linked in many studies. Antidepressants may be prescribed to patients struggling with depression or anxiety in order to better control their levels of pain and address nerve damage.
Generally, hospice care professionals seek to avoid prescribing strong medication unless absolutely necessary. For patients with high levels of pain, the medications listed above may not even begin to scratch the surface of relief. In this case, opioids may be required. Opioids like hydromorphone, oxycodone, and morphine block the sensation of pain by attaching to the receptors in a patient’s brain. Some patients may benefit from hydrocodone, a weaker opioid that can work alongside basic pain relievers. When this is not enough, then hospice workers may need to integrate stronger opioids.
Pain management requires constant monitoring and adjustments. While some of these drugs may be effective for a while, patients may also develop a tolerance to them. Hospice workers can solve this by changing the dose, type of drug, or method of delivering the drug (i.e. pill, liquid, patch, medicine pump). Medication may directly target the pain or target other symptoms that contribute to a patient’s discomfort. Adjuvant analgesics are becoming an important resource for pain management as well. Other types of medications can treat patients with nerve pain or bone pain and muscle relaxing properties can alleviate tension or muscle spasms.
When pain levels are high and patients are recommended strong medications such as an opioid, this can be a cause of concern for family members. Addiction and adverse side effects may be the initial fear. However, it’s good to keep things in perspective. Patients in hospice care are facing their end of life. This means that anything which could alleviate their pain and discomfort could prove invaluable to their quality of life leading up to their final days. Typically, addiction is not a concern among the hospice community because patients have a short timeline. In terms of side effects, the patient’s care will be closely monitored and adjusted whenever introducing a new medication to the mix. Hospice workers are experts in their field and will not risk any harm to the patient in their pain management journey. This means that decisions will be made carefully and precisely. Patients who are non-verbal can have their pain levels monitored by visual cues and physical evaluations.
Other than targeted medication, patients can benefit from pain management techniques such as music therapy, arts and crafts, meditation sessions, and other planned social interactions. Hospice workers advocate for a fully involved treatment in which a patient’s loved ones can participate and create meaningful memories. Not only do these practices bring a patient closer to their community but they can also effectively distract them from illness-related symptoms. Studies have shown that reading and playing music to hospice patients can significantly improve their mood and, in turn, their pain levels.
Faith & Hope Hospice and Palliative Care provide home-based services for patients facing their end of life. We are accredited by The Joint Commission and remain a respected member of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization. Get in touch with our team of professionals at (866) 441-5070 to learn how we can develop a pain management plan for you or your loved one.