A caregiver's guide to helping a loved one under hospice care with the symptoms of pain.
What are some Symptoms of Pain?
Verbal signs: Statements of pain, moaning, yelling out
Non-Verbal signs: Furrowed brow, frowning, guarding of area
Irritability, Crying, Heavy Breathing
Shifting or restless in bed or chair
Not wanting to move or be active
What can be done to Manage Pain?
Track and record the pain history and the actions/medications taken
Document the quantity and effectiveness of any medications taken
Medications such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen can be used for mild pain
Medications known as opioids may be used for moderate to severe pain
Examples include morphine, hydromorphone, fentanyl, oxycodone and tramadol
Typically, opioids are prescribed in two ways:
Routine scheduled (ex. every 8 hours): The goal of scheduled medication is to achieve a relatively consistent and acceptable level of pain relief day and night
As needed (“PRN”): The “as needed” opioid is used as a rescue dose if the scheduled medication is not relieving the pain at that moment
Non-medication tips that can aid in providing pain relief:
Relaxation/Meditation: stress and anxiety can increase pain; utilize techniques to help calm
Heat: If the care team advises, heat can help relax muscles and joints and provide distraction
Cold: If the care team advises, cold can aid in reducing swelling and provide distraction
Light Massage: If the care team advises, light massage can provide relief and distraction
What are some of the Side Effects of Treating Pain?
Sleepiness: Pain medications can cause drowsiness with initial doses or a dose increase
This should subside, but if bothersome, tell your team
Constipation is very common with pain medication; take a laxative regularly, as prescribed
If tolerable, also drink fluids
Other possible side effects: dry mouth, nausea, itching, slight confusion. Tell your care team if you notice any of these side effects. Many are treatable and may subside.
If Pain is not managed or medication side effects do not improve, notify the hospice team.
To view or download a hardcopy of the "Caregiver Care Guide: Pain," click the download button below.