In recent years, there has been a growing interest in the subject of caring for individuals at the ends of their lives.
As the elderly population continues to grow, the need for compassionate hospice care has become more and more relevant. At the heart of hospice care is the belief that each person has the right to die pain-free and with dignity. In many cases, care is provided in the patient's home with a loved one serving the primary care giver.
Along with physician services to attend to a patient’s medical needs, the skills and caring of a knowledgeable pharmacist are necessary to provide symptom control and pain relief in an end-of-life situation. Pharmacy compounding is quickly becoming a practical and compassionate way to meet these needs. Compounding is the art and science of preparing customized medications for patients, and its resurgence in recent years offers valuable benefits to those in hospice care.
The Compounding Solution
Why should you ask your physician or pharmacist about compounded medications for hospice care? Because compounding is especially suited to the idea of providing personalized, individual care to a dying patient. Pharmacists play a major role in the hospice environment, as caring for the hospice patient generally centers around providing comfort by using pharmaceuticals to relieve and manage symptoms. Every individual is unique, and experiences during the end of life can vary from person to person. However, common symptoms experienced during end-of-life care include pain, nausea/vomiting, constipation, diarrhea, bedsores, and anxiety—all of which are often best dealt with through compounding. By working closely with a compounding pharmacist, a physician can prescribe a regimen of care which is tailored to the hospice patient’s individual needs.
Ordinarily, the first symptom requiring relief is pain, and managing it often requires medication around the clock. Compounding pharmacists can often provide specialized medications for patients who suffer from acute and chronic pain. To keep the administration of medicine to a minimum, unique drug combinations can be prepared to allow patients to continue to live normally within their pain threshold.
Many hospice patients have trouble taking medications in traditional dosage forms. In such cases, compounding can provide a more appropriate method of administering medicine. For instance, a patient who is unable to swallow may be given transdermal gels which carry medications through the skin to help provide relief. Other patients may prefer medications prepared in flavored troche form. A troche is placed between the cheek and gum and melts slowly, releasing the drug inside the mouth where it is absorbed through the many blood vessels under the tongue. Medications may also be prepared as suppositories, oral suspensions or even as lollipops.
In Hospice care, it remains vitally important to relieve as much pain as possible without causing sedation and adverse side effects. Since patients vary in size and tolerance, commercially available medications often do not provide an appropriate strength. Through compounding, a physician and pharmacist can design a medication to the exact dosage needed by the patient.
Caring for a loved one in a hospice environment can be both challenging and rewarding. Ask your physician, hospice provider or our staff pharmacist (Certified by the American College of Hospice Pharmacists) today about the benefits of personalized compounding.