When we aren’t feeling well we look to our physicians and trust that they will provide us with proper medications to treat our conditions and make us feel better. This is most important with a hospice patient when comfort care is the main goal of any and all treatments. Many believe that hospice stops all medications when a person is signed onto service, this is a common misconception. Although cure is not a plan with hospice, proper care is.
Most elderly individuals are taking medications that they’ve been prescribed for a significant amount of time. Hospice doesn’t just stop these cold turkey, but rather discontinues anything that may not be appropriate any longer. If it doesn’t help to make a patient comfortable, it is not needed. Actually, some medications can cause problems rather than help a person. Hospice’s focus is having a firm grasp on pain and symptom management while providing the best quality of life that we can for each and every patient. The goal is never to shorten someone’s life, but to keep them comfortable and pain free.
As patients evolve closer to the end, issues arise. Food may become unappealing, difficult to chew, swallow, or digest. Fluids can also become a problem. This is normal in the end stages. Medications that were previously taken can be continued as approved by the hospice interdisciplinary team and if a patient wants to continue taking medications not related to their terminal diagnosis, they can do so. At this time, hospice looks at alternative methods or confines to the meds that only provide comfort measures for the patient. Sometimes stopping a medication with irritating side effects allows the patient a better quality of life overall.
Your hospice team will discuss each medication with you and allow you to make the final decision regarding discontinuing any medication that may be in question. Ultimately, the choice to discontinue anything belongs to the patient themselves. Talk with your nurses and physician to clarify goals and decide what is the best course of action for you.