For elderly patients diagnosed with a life-threatening disease, having a hospice caretaker who can assist managing their pain can be a godsend. Not only does this ensure the patient’s safety, but guarantees that the patient never has to needlessly suffer. Read more about the unique benefits of hospice pain management and how a Harbor Light Hospice caretaker can assist you or your loved one by managing pain.
What Is Hospice Pain Management?
Pain management is an interdisciplinary approach to easing the discomfort and suffering of those living with chronic pain. Hospice pain management takes the philosophy of hospice care — to improve a patient’s quality of life by focusing on the patient holistically — and applies it to pain management practice. In this way, hospice pain management is the alleviation of pain and distress by attending to patients’ physical, psychological, emotional and spiritual needs.
Pain management is one of the hallmarks of hospice care, as it guarantees that the patient is free from pain, while ensuring that all future discomfort is managed and monitored. Moreover, hospice caretakers will assess the patients emotional and spiritual wellbeing to help them find peace from stress and anxiety. By easing these symptoms, hospice care can deliver on its mission: to increase a patient’s level of comfort as much as possible.
Hospice Pain Management Benefits
While not all hospice care patients experience acute pain, per se, everyone who receives hospice care has some level of discomfort. For that reason, hospice care teams will evaluate a patient’s physical and psychological pain on every visit. In addition to employing a variety of pain management scales and tests, hospice caretakers will also evaluate a patient’s emotional wellbeing, taking into consideration that emotional pain can often exasperate physical pain and vice versa.
For patients who have difficulty communicating their pain (those suffering from Alzheimer’s or Dementia, for example) hospice caretakers will pay careful attention to signs and symptoms that may indicate the patient is in pain. These signs include increased breathing rate, rapidly blinking, fidgeting, crying, increased confusion, moaning, calling out, or rigid body posture, among others. A professional hospice caretaker has been trained to spot these signs and can ensure that your loved is cared for in the event that their pain is difficult to recognize.
Keep in mind: While many patients don’t hesitate to communicate their pain, other patients can have a harder time articulating “what hurts” and “how much.” Furthermore, other patients can sometimes believe that admitting pain makes them appear weak, which can make it especially difficult to ensure that they are receiving the care that they need. Again, an experienced hospice care provider can detect potential signs of distress and their degree of pain. They will also work with the patient to help them see how pain management is a wholly natural, and courageous, feature of self-respect. This can help ensure that they get the pain-management that they so rightly need and deserve.
How is Pain Managed in Hospice Care?
Physical pain is often managed by medication, specifically the use of opioids for medium to severe pain. Opioids attach themselves to specific receptors in the brain which block the sensation of pain. While many people shy away from the use of opioids for fear of their addictive qualities, studies have shown that properly managed medical use of opioids (taken exactly as prescribed) is safe, can manage pain effectively, and rarely causes addiction. That said, hospice caretakers will frequently assess the need to continue opioid use to control pain against the risks of continued use, and take steps to minimize dependence.
Stress, anxiety and agitation are another form of pain that hospice caregivers regularly attend to. One way to treat emotional distress is through pharmacology, often using “benzodiazepines” like Ativan or Valium, which are often used to treat agitation and anxiety. Patients will also receive regular visits from chaplains and social workers who can work with them to address their emotional or spiritual needs.
In hospice care, pain can also be treated using a variety of integrative therapies, including music and massage therapy. These are non-invasive treatment options that are often used alongside medication to further provide relaxation and comfort, as well as ease soreness and stiffness. Integrative therapies have also been shown to reduce unhealthy stress hormones such as cortisol, while increasing “feel-good” neurotransmitters and hormones like serotonin and oxytocin.
Contact Harbor Light Hospice Today
Ultimately, the goal of hospice care is to maximize a patient’s quality of life throughout their illness. Of course, this means finding the right balance between anesthetic-induced sedation, pain-relief and actually living. Qualified hospice providers will work with the patient’s physicians to determine the right balance based on the patient’s needs and preferences. For these reasons and those described above, it is absolutely essential that you work with an established hospice caretaker to administer pain management, rather than attempting to do it yourself.
To learn more about hospice care pain management services, contact Harbor Light Hospice today!