Palliative care is the care that’s given to a person with an active, advanced disease with little hope for a cure. It’s a growing concern in the medical field and for anyone who has had to cope with a loved one passing away.
Caring for a person at the end of their life can be very difficult for the individual and for their loved ones. It’s also quite complex medically as the goal is to ensure that the individual passes away pain-free and with dignity.
Medications are obviously a big part of this process, which is why palliative compounding is so important at this time. Here’s a look at some of the biggest problems that your compounding pharmacy help solve in an individual’s final days.
1. Minimising sedation
The goal of medication in palliative care is to minimise or eliminate pain without sedating the individual or causing other side effects. This can be a complex ask, as pain medications are very powerful and can often leave the individual groggy and confused or sleeping all the time.
Unfortunately, commercial medications are typically only available within standard, average doses and strengths. These often aren’t appropriate for individual patients, who might have lower or higher medication needs due to:
- Body weight
- Organ failures
- Drug tolerances
- Pain levels
- Allergies or sensitivities
A compounding pharmacy can combine medications in precise doses, to meet the individual’s needs. This is known as palliative compounding and it ensures that patients get the individual, personalised care they need to minimise pain and side effects in their last days.
Symptoms of anxiety because of pain and the approach of death are completely normal in palliative patients. However, excessive anxiety, although common, can be very distressing on both patients and family members, and needs to be managed carefully.
With palliative compounding, patients can receive precisely dosed medication to help manage symptoms of excessive anxiety when necessary. This can make an already difficult and distressing situation just that little bit more manageable for patients and loved ones.
3. Swallowing difficulties
Patients in palliative care often experience swallowing problems (dysphagia) due to:
- Neurological conditions such as strokes
- Cancer in the mouth, throat, or oesophagus
- Gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD)
- Sarcopenia or loss of muscle mass
- Serious illnesses such as pneumonia
- Obstructive conditions
- General weakness
- Muscle weaknesses or conditions
Swallowing problems can make it very difficult for palliative patients to take medications, which can result in distress at medication time and under-medication. A compounding pharmacist can work with a patient’s doctor to turn medications into formulations that are easy to take and swallow. This may include:
- Topical ointments
- Flavoured lozenges
- Rapid dissolve tablets that melt in the mouth
- Oral liquids
This can help ensure that the patient gets the medications they need to minimise or eliminate pain and treat other troubling symptoms. Palliative compounding can also help to eliminate side effects from taking medications, such as providing topical pain medications if tablets cause stomach upsets.
4. Multiple symptoms
The medical needs of people at the end of their life can be very complex and difficult to manage. Often, palliative patients experience a range of symptoms and problems depending on their existing illnesses, mental state, the medications they’re on, and the progression of their condition.
Managing all of these issues is essential to good palliative care, but the practical side of this isn’t that easy. It usually demands numerous medications, which must be taken at various times of the day.
A compounding pharmacist can help cut down on the number of medications that a palliative patient needs to take by combining some into a mix that’s tailored to the patient’s needs. This will help ensure that the patient’s symptoms are effectively managed with fewer medications and medication times overall.
When someone you care about reaches the end of their life, it’s very distressing for them and for you. The last thing you need in this situation is for medication regimes to be ineffective or stressful for you or your loved one.
Your pharmacist can make it simpler and easier for your loved one to get all the medications they need without side effects. Talk to our team today about whether palliative compounding can help make this distressing time that little bit easier.