Is Death Painful?
Is dying painful? It’s a question many people have when considering their own death or the death of a loved one. Whether or not a patient will have pain at the time of death depends on a number of circumstances including their diagnosis and whether they are receiving proper pain management. Ensuring that patients do not have a painful death is one of the core tenets of Crossroads Hospice & Palliative Care.
In most cases, when a patient is receiving the care and support of hospice, they will not experience pain during the dying process. Instead, their body will naturally begin to shut down. They will begin to have a decreased desire to eat and drink and will start to sleep more. Breathing will slow and their pulse will weaken. While they may have a sudden surge of energy in the final days, their body will continue to decline until they pass away.
Throughout the final months, weeks, and days of the patient’s life, hospice nurses will work with the patient’s physicians and caregivers to manage any pain the patient is experiencing. While the loss of a loved one is still heartbreaking for families and friends, this process is natural.
Barriers to Pain Management
One of the largest barriers to pain management is a lack of understanding about the support available through hospice care. Improperly managed pain can make life very difficult for an individual with a terminal illness. The pain they experience can make it difficult for them to breathe and concentrate, making them anxious and irritable. This level of discomfort makes it very difficult for them to maintain a good quality of life in their final days.
There are a number of reasons people shy away from the support of pain medication.
Some fear addiction. While this is a valid concern for those expected to recover from an illness, the patient’s physician weighs those concerns against the need for pain management in order to prescribe an appropriate dose. That said, once a patient is diagnosed as terminal, addiction is no longer a worry.
Other patients believe they should “tough it out” for as long as possible or fear the side effects of medication. Again, at end of life, the focus should be on comfort to avoid a painful death.
Another concern some patients express is the cost of the medication. All medication, supplies, and equipment needed to manage a terminal patient’s symptoms are covered under hospice care at no cost to the family.
Finally, the biggest fear we hear is the concern that pain medication will hasten death. Proper pain management does not hasten death or prolong life. Instead, it allows patients to have the time they need to get their affairs in order and say goodbyes without the intense distraction of pain.
Tools to Manage Pain at End of Life
Pain management is built into each hospice patient’s care plan. The hospice care team and the patient’s physicians will work together to develop a plan of care that meets each individual patient’s needs.
One of the most common medications to control pain at end of life is Morphine Sulfate, also known under its brand name Roxanol. Roxanol is a popular pain medication in hospice care because it is fast-acting and effective. Roxanol alleviates shortness of breath and severe discomfort. In a patient’s final days, use of medication like Roxanol allows the patient’s body to relax and go through the natural dying process without fear of pain.
To learn more about the signs and symptoms of end of life, please contact us at 1-888-564-3405.
If you found this information helpful, please share it with your network and community.
Copyright © 2017 Crossroads Hospice & Palliative Care. All rights reserved.