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How the Ongoing Opioid Crisis Impacts Hospice Patients

How the Ongoing Opioid Crisis Impacts Hospice Patients

The opioid epidemic sweeping the US over the past two decades has taken millions of lives and continues to affect even more with about 130 opioid-related deaths per day. A segment of the population affected by the ongoing crisis is those with a severe or terminal illness, which are not likely to recover. Otherwise considered “palliative care,” people who need intense and specific medical oversight or their conditions, including end-of-life hospice, are also suffering. The media often ignore the opioid crisis among seniors because they are deemed disposable by many, but their situations have a more significant impact than many realize.

Family Impact

With new opioid prescription guidelines in place, healthcare providers are forced to consider a patient’s whole health history before prescribing pain-relieving medication with the potential for misuse. This includes any family members within the household with a history of opioid use disorder or recreational misuse. There have been many reports of hospice patients who have been deprived of their opioid medication or who have had their painkillers stolen by family members or caretakers. A survey reveals that out of 371 hospices, 31% have reported at least one case of stolen opioid medications within the past 90 days, and the perpetrator was often a family member.

The Other Victims

Issues surrounding opioid medications for hospice patients aren’t only in regards to the potential for theft but also misuse by the patients themselves. These situations become precarious, especially with cases involving end-of-life treatment for terminal illness and chronic pain. The opioid epidemic has forced medical providers to rethink how they prescribe these medications to their terminal patients due to liability concerns and the risk of overdose because the opioid crisis among seniors is vastly overlooked by many. This brings medical professions to opposing sides of whether those with a terminal illness should be able to take their opioid medications as they see fit versus evaluating them for substance use disorder. The topic is highly debated.

Hospice Management

While experts debate the best course of treatment for terminal or long-term hospice patients, the facts remain: the need for proper substance use disorder supervision is essential, and the misuse of these medications can lead to a slippery slope among patients who have complex conditions but changes of improvement. The unregulated prescription of opioid painkillers to those in demanding health and medical situations can add to an already harrowing trend of opioid death statistics.

Treatment and Solutions

While there will always be chances of people abusing the medical system to acquire prescription medication, we mustn’t ignore or neglect those who have chronic pain care needs. With the use of ORT, or opioid risk tool, providers, pharmacists, and nurses can tap into a connected network that tracks a patient’s medications, refill consistency, and much more.

By opening access for people to treat their ongoing opioid use disorder, a positive effect will be felt down the line, all the way to terminal or long-term hospice patients who can use their medications as intended. Recovery Services of New Mexico is dedicated to helping anyone who wants to take control back over their lives from opioid addiction. Call us to enroll in a treatment program today.


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