Pain treatment for terminally ill patients in hospice care often starts with over-the-counter pain medication such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen and aspirin, according to Hospice Patients Alliance. Eventually OTC pain medications stop being effective as pain levels increase, at which point stronger medications, including narcotics, are prescribed.
The primary goal for the hospice care team is to make sure the patient is comfortable and pain levels are controlled, explains Hospice Patients Alliance. Tension and stressful situations should be avoided in the patient's environment. Many hospice care treatments include methods that adhere to the patient's preferences for a relaxed environment, such as music therapy or maintaining silence. Massage treatment and warm baths are often used for their soothing effects.
The use of narcotics or opiates for pain management is a topic of debate due to their addictive qualities, according to the American Hospice Foundation. Types of opiates used to treat moderate-to-severe pain include morphine, oxycodone, methadone, fentanyl and hydromorphone. Although addiction to opiates in terminally ill patients is rare, many medical and hospice care providers underutilize them to treat pain. As a result, many patients do not receive adequate pain management. Generally, opiates have not been found to be dangerous when properly prescribed and managed according to the guidelines for pain management.