This is a guest post by Lee Chisolm, MD, a Medical Director for Halcyon Hospice.
One of the most troubling aspects of caring for a terminally ill loved one can occur when that person is suffering from pain. According to a study published by the National Institute of Health, approximately 50% of patients at the end of life report that they experience pain.
One of the greatest benefits that Hospice can provide for a patient as they are nearing death is controlling pain. As Hospice’s main goal is to keep our patients comfortable, pain control is a top priority.
At Halcyon Hospice, we utilize a team approach for controlling pain. Trained palliative care nurses closely assess each patient for signs and symptoms of distress. These nurses are in close contact with a physician to determine the best avenue of treatment. In most circumstances, we use a 10 point scale to assess pain (0 being no pain, and 10 being the worst pain). However in some situations, terminally ill patients are unable to verbalize their needs – including pain.
Our nurses are trained to assess these patients based on specific changes in vital signs (blood pressure, pulse, and breathing rate), changes in facial expression, and other physical changes that may signify that our patient’s pain is not controlled.
Based on the specific symptoms that a patient may be having, the hospice team works together to keep our patients comfortable throughout the dying process. We rely on a variety of medications to assist in this process, but we often use a number of other modalities for pain control. Simple adjunctive treatments such as music, massage, meditation, and prayer can all be extremely helpful in keeping our patients comfortable.
At Halcyon Hospice, our main goal is to make the dying process as comfortable as possible for both the patient and the family. To find out more about how we can help, or if Hospice is the right fit for your loved one, visit the Halcyon Hospice website.