A common fear when entering hospice is that taking advantage of this service will mean having to stop all medications. Patients and family members alike often express concern that their loved one will be forced to discontinue the use of even maintenance medications, which can bring harm and cause the patient to feel less comfortable. This is far from true.
Medications and Hospice Care
The main goal of hospice care is to create a safe and comfortable environment for patients who have been diagnosed with a life-limiting illness. There is not a motive to hasten or postpone death. Rather, the patient is kept comfortable so that their goals are respected and they can continue to enjoy a higher quality of life for the time they have left. This process does not have to involve stopping all medications. In fact, some medications benefit the senior.
In hospice, the senior’s primary care doctor remains involved throughout the entire process as part of the interdisciplinary team. In their role, they sometimes continue to recommend and prescribe certain medications but do also always consider the primary goal of keeping the senior comfortable. For instance, a blood pressure medication might help to provide comfort to a patient who is admitted to hospice for heart failure. At the same time, a decision may be made to discontinue a cholesterol lowering medication if it has little impact on comfort or the benefits of continuing it do not outweigh the risks. With all medications, final decisions are individual, and the client’s opinions and input are always valued. In many cases, if there is a maintenance medication that the senior has been on for a long time and it is their desire to continue taking that, they can continue to do so. If there is a specific reason why that is not a viable option, the interdisciplinary team takes time to discuss this with the patient.
Quality of Life is the Priority
When discussing medications, it’s always important to consider that once in hospice, maintaining quality of life is the primary focus. Managing pain and controlling distress are important as we work to reach this goal. Therefore, many of the medications prescribed in hospice care are pain medications. At times, prescribing a pain medication and a maintenance medication the senior previously took may be counterintuitive. Any medications used to treat the condition the patient was admitted to hospice for are also typically discontinued.
It can be difficult to discontinue a medication that you have long relied on to improve quality of life. For some patients, it is important to understand that entering hospice care does not necessarily mean these medications will all be stopped. Working with your general practitioner and your interdisciplinary hospice team, decisions will be made to help improve quality of life and ensure comfort – the primary goals of Salus Hospice Los Angeles. Contact us to discuss your family’s needs.