Ativan, also known by its generic name, lorazepam, is a benzodiazepine medication used to treat multiple symptoms in end-of-life care. Other drugs in the benzodiazepine family include Valium (diazepam) and Xanax (alprazolam) among others. These medications work in the brain as central nervous system depressants and reduce anxiety by slowing the nervous system down.
What is lorazepam?
Lorazepam is a fast-acting medication and is most commonly used to treat acute anxiety, anxiety disorders, or anxiety associated with depression in end-of-life care. It is also a very effective medication for the treatment of seizures. This medication can be used alone or in combination with other medications to treat nausea and vomiting. Though it can also be used to treat severe agitation, Haldol continues to be the medication of choice for management of this symptom.
Lorazepam is recognized as an important medication by the World Health Organization (WHO) and appears on its list of essential medicines in health care. WHO defines essential medicines as “those that satisfy the priority healthcare needs of the population. They are selected with due regard to public health relevance, evidence on efficacy and safety, and comparative cost-effectiveness.” Lorazepam is also on the WHO list of medications essential in palliative care.
What is lorazepam used for in hospice?
Dosing requirements are individualized for elderly patients. The hospice nurse, under the supervision of the hospice medical director, ensures correct dosing and frequency of administration, provides ongoing assessment for effectiveness of the medication, and monitors for any adverse reactions to the medication. Lorazepam may increase fall risk in the elderly so the hospice nurse will also educate family members in safety and fall prevention.
Anxiety and panic are very common symptoms in end-of-life care. Lorazepam is a safe and effective tool in the management of these and other distressing symptoms.
Corporate Pharmacy Consultant, RN, CHPN
Crossroads Hospice & Palliative Care
To learn more about hospice treatment or to make a referral, please call Crossroads Hospice & Palliative Care at 1-888-564-3405.
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