Symptom Management

Addressing And Treating Uncomfortable Symptoms

Symptom Management | HOPE Healthcare and Hospice

Providing Hospice Patients with the highest quality of life possible

HOPE's care team focuses on providing patients with the highest quality of life possible as they progress through each stage of their illness. When discussing hospice care, symptom management is one of the primary goals to inquire about.

Every patient is different; however, recognizing symptoms, being proactive when appropriate, and treating symptoms effectively are essential to the plan of care and end-of-life experience.

The four symptoms most often present are: 

  1. Physical pain
  2. Anxiety (emotional and/or spiritual pain)
  3. Anxiety (terminal agitation)
  4. Shortness of breath
Symptom Management with HOPE Hospice

HOPE helps relieve hospice patients of uncomfortable symptoms to maximize their well-being, allowing them to be part of meaningful moments with loved ones and family members.


Symptoms of Physical Pain

Signs of Pain May Include: 

  • An increased breathing rate.
  • An increase in the patient's systolic blood pressure from their baseline
  • Becoming more aggressive and easily angered
  • Crying
  • Eyes closed tightly or blinking rapidly.
  • Guarding certain areas of the body when turning or resisting care
  • Holding arm or leg muscles tightly or a rigid body posture
  • Increased confusion/cognitive decline
  • Moaning, calling out, sighing, and asking for help
  • Rocking, fidgeting, or pacing

HOPE's Interdisciplinary Team Assesses Pain During Each Visit

Often, we hear intimidation or resistance in families’ voices when talking about pain medication. Families are worried their loved ones will suffer but are also concerned that their loved ones may have too much medication and get addicted.

Our clinical team assesses patients’ pain during each visit.  As qualified hospice providers, we find the right balance for each patient, basing our decisions on patient needs, preferences, and discussions with the family. We aim to provide the patient comfort and the best quality of life possible. 

Initiating hospice care as early as possible after receiving a terminal diagnosis enables quicker management of pain and other symptoms – allowing the patient to enjoy a better quality of life for longer. Learn more about how HOPE Healthcare and Hospice helps manage pain for hospice patients. 

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Symptoms of Anxiety (Emotional and/or Spiritual Pain)

Anxiety is a natural response to stress created by factors in life. It is a common symptom among hospice patients and their families due to challenges and uncertainty on their end-of-life journey.

Feelings of stress, nervousness, agitation, restlessness, and panic fall into this category, and as qualified hospice care providers, we work to understand each patient and their needs.

Anxiety looks and feels different for everyone, with potentially multiple sources causing the current state of stress. HOPE's hospice care team will do evaluations to understand the patient and their specific perspectives and experiences properly.

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Emotional and Spiritual Pain | HOPE Healthcare and Hospice

Symptoms of Anxiety (Terminal Agitation)

Signs of Terminal Agitation May Include: 

  • Anxiety, fear, panic
  • Agitation (fidgeting, twitching, tossing & turning, pulling at anything within reach, pacing)
  • Angry outbursts, aggression, or irrational accusations of wrongdoing
  • Difficulty making decisions, such as asking for an item and then rejecting it
  • Unsettled behavior, such as pulling at clothes and/or bedsheets.
  • Irritability
  • Moaning or crying out
  • Disorientation or difficulty paying attention
  • Hallucinations or paranoia
  • Mental decline, confusion, or dementia

We respond quickly and appropriately to relieve symptoms of terminal agitation

Terminal agitation is sudden anxiety, agitation, anger, or confusion as the hospice patient approaches death. Suddenly, and without warning, their personality can change, leaving loved ones feeling overwhelmed and feeling helpless.

Terminal agitation is not experienced in all patients and is experienced differently with each patient. Your loved one, who has been lethargic, may start trying to stand up and get out of bed. They may begin tugging at clothes or bedding. They may suddenly cease to recognize or see you and others as enemies. They may start making unusual demands or yell at you using language not typical for them.

The HOPE hospice team will respond quickly and appropriately with the patient’s appropriate medications to relieve the symptoms of terminal agitation. What works for one patient may not work for another; each patient is cared for specifically for their unique needs and situation.


Symptoms of Shortness of Breath

Shortness of breath, called dyspnea, is sometimes associated with chronic conditions such as heart failure, COPD, or lung disease.

Watching a loved one struggle to catch their breath can be frightening. The shortness of breath can trigger moments of crisis, causing distress for patients and their loved ones. Signs of shortness of breath include: 

  • Labored breathing
  • Tightness in the chest
  • Fighting for air
  • Feeling smothered
  • Increased respiration rate
  • Discoloration of nail beds and/or lips

HOPE Healthcare and Hospice provides proven therapies to manage shortness of breath. Oxygen therapy and medication are usually the first lines of treatment, but other non-medical interventions may help, too.

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Shortness of Breath | HOPE Healthcare and Hospice
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