Important Hospice Patient Changes to Look For

Posted on Jun 11, 2018

As the primary caregiver for a loved one, families will spend the most time with a patient, which means they have the best opportunity to spot changes in a hospice patient. Catching these changes early can help doctors make better decisions and improve the quality of the care provided. Here are two kinds of changes families should be looking for.  

Physical

Changes in a patient’s physical condition almost always warrants a conversation with someone on the hospice medical team. Common physical changes include:

  • Increased Number of Falls
  • Pain when moving or lying down
  • Refusal or sudden inability to turn or move
  • Skin changes such as sores, tears, bruises, rashes, itching, or a change in color
  • Bladder or bowel functions
  • Eating or drinking habits
  • Shortness of breath
  • Loss of sight or hearing

Mental

Changes in patient’s mental state can be just as important to note as physical changes, but they aren’t as easy to spot. Families need to be vigilant and watch out for:

  • Increased sleeping during the day
  • Difficult to wake from sleep
  • Confusion about time, place, or people
  • Restless (picking or pulling at the bed linen)
  • Talking about things unconnected to the events or people present
  • Increased anxiety, fear, or loneliness at night
  • Suicidal thoughts or depression

A patient receiving end-of-life care via hospice and palliative care will likely go through lots of mental and physical changes, which makes it hard to know which changes need to be brought up with the nurses and doctors. When in doubt, it’s always best to let the hospice medical team know about changes. Having more information will only help them create a care plan that’s right for a patient’s unique needs.  

What You Need to Know About Palliative Care

Posted on Jun 01, 2018

Palliative care is a unique form of care that is vastly different than other forms of medical care. The unique nature of palliative care makes it ideal for meeting the needs of patients, under the correct circumstances. It’s important to understand the basic definition, goals, and applications of palliative care.

Definition

Palliative care is a specialized form of medical care for patients with terminal illnesses. This type of care is focused on providing relief from the symptoms and stress of a terminal illness. It is suitable at any age and for any kind of terminal illness, and it can be provided along with curative treatment.

Goal

The goal is to improve quality of life for both the patient and the family. Palliative care teams focus on treating people suffering from the symptoms and stress of terminal illnesses. This type of care treats pain, depression, shortness of breath, fatigue, constipation, nausea, loss of appetite, difficulty sleeping, anxiety, and any other symptoms that may be causing discomfort.

Administration

A pure form (meaning only palliative with no curative) of palliative care is most commonly found in a hospice setting. However, palliative care methods are also used in conjunction with curative care as well. Palliative care is provided by a specially-trained team of doctors, nurses and other specialists who work together with a patient’s other doctors to provide an extra layer of support.

If you or a loved one is in need of palliative and hospice care, call Cura-HPC. Our experienced team will provide the highest level of care and compassion to all patients under our care. We are able to provide the full range of hospice services including pain management, personal assistance, spiritual care, coordination of care, and bereavement care. 

Prescription Medications at Hospice

Posted on May 21, 2018

Rarely, if ever, will a patient be enrolled in hospice care who isn’t currently on some regimen of prescription medications. To ensure a smooth transition and a high level of care for the patient, one of the first steps a hospice medical team will take is a prescription medication review.

As patients move closer to the end of their life, they are often shuffled from specialist to specialist and this can cause issues with medications. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, one in six older adults who are admitted to the hospital is because of an adverse drug event. This number increases to one in three for patients over the age of 75.

Performing a medication review ensures no medication errors slip through the cracks and helps the hospice provider fully understand the condition of the patient. Once the review is complete, the hospice provider can make any adjustments needed to make the patient comfortable.

One reason that prevents families from enrolling in hospice care is the fear that the patient will no longer be allowed to take the medications they have been prescribed. While a hospice provider may stop some prescription medication that is designed to offer long term health benefits, there are no rules against maintaining prescription medications that provide comfort to the patient.

The medications that are and are not prescribed to a patient will have a big impact on the quality of hospice care a patient receives. That’s why we take this aspect of palliative care so seriously. Our staff is passionate about finding the right medication regimen for each patient to ensure they are as comfortable as possible. 

Moving a Body Across State Lines

Posted on May 18, 2018

When a loved one passes away families are confronted with a wave of emotions to deal with as well as a mountain of logistics that need to be addressed. One logistical issue that frequently comes up is transferring the body across state lines. As fewer and fewer families all live in the same town or state, this issue is becoming more common. While this might seem like an overwhelming task, it only takes two phone calls.

The First Call

Once the family decides where they want to bury their loved one, they should call the receiving funeral home. This will start the process of the local funeral home and the receiving home coordinating with each other. After the family signs a few documents, the two funeral homes will decide on the transportation method based on the distance between the two.

The Second Call

The next step for the family to take is getting a burial transit permit. This document contains the cause of death, the deceased’s personal information, the family’s contact information, and the release documentation needed to transport the body. Rules and regulations for these permits change slightly from state to state, so it’s important for families to check with both funeral homes to make sure everything is filed correctly.

The DIY Option

Families can transport the body using their own vehicles, but there are laws that must be followed to do this. A proper shipping container must be used and it needs to be sealed appropriately. There are also laws regarding embalming the body.

Ashes

Regardless of paying a funeral home to transport the body or doing it yourself, transporting a body across state lines can be expensive. The average cost clocks in around $5,000. If this cost is too expensive, a much more affordable option is cremation. Ashes can be transported without the need for permits, making it much more affordable. 

Defining Terminal Restlessness

Posted on Apr 30, 2018

Terminal Restlessness

The mind and body can go through a lot of changes and challenges when a person is approaching the end of their life. These changes can manifest in a lot of ways, one of which is called terminal restlessness. As a Tulsa palliative care provider, we’re quite accustomed to dealing with this condition and helping families manage the symptoms. Terminal restlessness can include confusion, anxiousness, and angry outbursts.  

This is more than a simple mood swing or temporary bout of bewilderment; some suffering from terminal restlessness can seem like a different person entirely. Hospice patients with terminal restlessness may lash out at family members with irate claims and demand to see the doctor or speak to the authorities. In some cases, hallucinations have even been reported.

Treatments

The first step in treating terminal restlessness is identifying the root cause of the illness. Terminal restlessness can stem from multiple places, such as:

  • Increased levels of calcium
  • Fever
  • Infections or sepsis
  • Medication
  • Pain
  • Constipation
  • Emotional unrest
  • Swelling of the brain
  • Vital organs shutting down

While some of these causes can be treated, others are unfortunately just a part of the final stages of life and, at best, can only be managed. Regardless of the root cause, the primary goal of treating terminal restlessness should always be to keep the patient safe. Installing safety rails to their bed and keeping a close eye on them can help avoid falling accidents.

Watching a loved one go through terminal restlessness can be emotionally draining as a family. At Cura-HPC we offer bereavement counseling to patients’ family members as one of our hospice care services. We believe hospice and palliative care is meant to take care of the entire family. If your family is in need of hospice services, call Cura-HPC.