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The contents of this blog contain topics relevant to end of life care written by our own hospice clinical pharmacists. Continue to check this site regularly for the newest post or subscribe to the RSS feed below.
Shane Donnelly, PharmD

Prescription Drug Misuse, Dependence, and Abuse in the Elderly

Older adults are often left out of the discussion when it comes to prescription drug misuse, dependence, and abuse. Prescription drug abuse is an epidemic in this country, and it’s not just confined to the younger patient population. It is estimated that 11% of elderly patients abuse prescription medication.1

The elderly consume roughly one quarter of the prescriptions sold in the United States.1 Elderly patients often have chronic pain, anxiety, or insomnia that requires the use of potentially addictive medication. Additionally, elderly patients may not be adequately treated with their current therapies. These risk factors, along with social isolation, depression, and limited functionality, make the geriatric population particularly at risk for substance misuse and abuse.

Providing safe and effective care for elderly patients requires that signs of prescription misuse, dependence, and abuse are recognized quickly. The medications that are often abused can lead to events such as falls and accidents that require these patients to be admitted to inpatient units or nursing homes. To effectively manage prescription medication misuse and abuse in this population, the definition of substance misuse, dependence, tolerance, and abuse should be addressed.

Misuse- Prescription medication misuse is the improper taking of medication by the patient. It is most commonly by accident, but can also be intentional. Assess your patient’s ability to take medication correctly. It may be necessary to provide pharmaceutical education to your patient.  Examples include.2

• Taking medication differently than directed on the label due to poor eyesight or reading ability

• Doubling up on doses

• Borrowing medication from friends or family members

• Acquiring medication online to treat self-diagnosed conditions

Physical dependence and Tolerance- Physical dependence evolves from the continued regular use of a substance that results in withdrawal symptoms upon discontinuation. Tolerance to medication occurs when patients need higher doses of medication to achieve adequate symptomatic relief. Patients with physical dependence and tolerance may display drug-seeking behavior that can be misconstrued as psychological dependence (addiction).2 Assess the patient’s current condition and medication profile. The patient’s therapy may be inadequate due to tolerance or lack of efficacy. Communicate concerns with the patient’s physician. The patient may then cease to engage in drug-seeking behavior.

Psychological dependence (addiction)- Psychological dependence is a state that demonstrates loss of control and/or compulsive drug-seeking behavior.3 These patients engage in medication use despite the potential for adverse consequences. These patients need professional help to overcome both physical and psychological dependence. At this point, it is important to understand that these patients are potentially putting themselves and others in immediate danger.

In hospice, it is rare for a patient to become psychologically dependent on medication. It is important to be aware of any signs of substance abuse among family members or caregivers. Recognizing signs of caregiver abuse is important to protect patients and provide the best possible care for the end-of-life stage. It’s important to listen your patient’s concerns regarding their medication and to assess the root cause of medication discrepancies.


References:

1 Culbertson JW, Ziska, M. Prescription drug misuse/abuse in the elderly. Geriatrics. 2008; 63(9): 22-31.

2 Agins, A. Prescription drug abuse: from bad to worse. CEdrugstorenews.com March/April 2012. Retrieved July 5, 2012 at: http://www.cedrugstorenews.com/userapp//lessons/lesson_view_ui.cfm?lessonuid=401-000-12-201-H01.

3 American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Methods of Mental Disorders (Fourth Edition, Text Revision). Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association. 2000;199-273

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Jessica Horsley, PharmD

Music Therapy in Hospice and Palliative Care

Music Therapy (MT) is an established health profession in which music is used within a therapeutic relationship to address physical, emotional, cognitive, and social needs of individuals. It is the clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship by a credentialed professional who has completed an approved music therapy program. Although note-worthy and possibly soothing in nature, activities like bedside and lobby performances, background music and providing media players/headphones are NOT considered clinical music therapy.

Board Certified Music Therapists (MT-BC) work in a variety of settings including schools, nursing facilities, hospitals, and hospices. After assessing the strengths and needs of each client, the qualified music therapist provides the indicated treatment including creating, singing, moving to, and/or listening to music. Through musical involvement in the therapeutic context, clients' abilities are strengthened and transferred to other areas of their lives. Music therapy also provides avenues for communication that can be helpful to those who find it difficult to express themselves in words.1

MT has shown benefit for many conditions relevant to the care of a hospice patient. In dementia, including Alzheimer’s, MT can reduce behaviors like agitation,2 improve speech and attention,3 even make shower/bath times easier for patients and caregivers.4 Incorporating MT into Parkinson’s therapy improves gait,5, 6 speech and mood.7 Of particular interest to the hospice population, MT can treat anxiety,8 dyspnea9 and pain.10 MT is not only appropriate for adult hospice patients; it also proven exceptionally useful in the pediatric population,11 including those with Autism spectrum disorders.12

Benefits of MT extend beyond relieving patient symptoms. It can oftentimes be associated with a reduction in stress, as reported amongst both family13 and professional caregivers. Beyond the physical/emotional benefits of MT to patients, families and caregivers, it may even offer benefit to hospices seeking cost-saving strategies. A growing body of evidence supports that MT can decrease medication and care costs (by decreasing nursing visits) for patients, offsetting the cost of MT.14

 

Aside from cost-savings, MT offers another benefit over medications – it has only one true contraindication: patient preference. A recent survey of U.S. hospices estimated that MT is provided as a discretionary service by over half of the hospices nationwide. Further, hospices that offer MT report that it is more often preferred by patients than any other complementary treatment method.9 If MT is not currently offered by your hospice, patients can be referred to an independent MT-BC by a prescriber. According to the American Music Therapy Association, about 20% of MT-BC receive third party reimbursement. These payers include Medicare and private insurance. Additional funding sources may include state departments of mental health and/or developmental disabilities, private auto insurance, worker’s compensation, foundations and grants.15

Although many MT-BCs work in institutional settings, home-based music therapy (HBMT) is a growing field relevant to home hospice providers. These programs can include home visits by a MT-BC and/or instruction of spouses, family members and other caregivers in selected MT techniques, which can offer lasting effectiveness and cost-savings.16 Like many growing fields, more research into the provision and implementation, as well as efficacy and cost-benefits of this innovative service are needed, but the current body of literature suggests MT is a strong addition to a hospice and/or palliative care service’s complementary and alternative treatment offering.

How to find a Board Certified Music Therapist:
Certification Board for Music Therapists
http://www.cbmt.org/certificant_search
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

American Music Therapy Association  
http://www.musictherapy.org/about/find/
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 


REFERENCES:

1 Definition and Quotes about Music Therapy. American Music Therapy Association web site. http://www.musictherapy.org/about/quotes/. Accessed June 20, 2015.
2 McDermott O, Crellin N, Ridder HM, Orrell M. Music therapy in dementia: a narrative synthesis systematic review. Int J Geriatr Psychiatry. 2013;28:781–794
3 Ceccato E, Vigato G, Bonetto C, et al. STAM protocol in dementia: a multicenter, single-blind, randomized, and controlled trial. Am J Alzheimers Dis Other Demen. 2012;27:301-310.
4 Ray KD, Fitzsimmons S. Music-assisted bathing: making shower time easier for people with dementia. J Geront Nurs. 2014;40:9-13.
5 Bella SD, Benoit CE, Farrugia N, Schwartze M, Kotz SA. Effects of musically cued gait training in Parkinson’s disease. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2015;1336:77-85
6 de Dreu MJ, van der Wilk AS, Poppe E, Kwakkel G. Rehabilitation, exercise therapy and music in patients with Parkinson’s disease: a meta-analysis of the effects of muscle-based movement therapy on walking ability, balance and quality of life. Parkinsonism Relat Disord. 2012;18:S114-119.
7 Haneishi E. Effects of a music therapy voice protocol on speech intelligibility, vocal acoustic measures, and mood in Parkinson’s disease. J Music Ther. 2001;38:273-290.
8 Horne-Thompson A, Grocke D. The effect of music therapy on anxiety in patients who are terminally ill. J Pall Med. 2008;11:582-590.
9 Burns DS, Perkins SM, Tong Y, Hilliard RE, Cripe LD. Music therapy is associated with family perception of more spiritual support and decreased breathing problems in cancer patients receiving hospice care. J Pain Symptom Manage. 2015. In press.
10 Krout RE. The effects of single-session music therapy interventions on the observed and self-reported levels of pain control, physical comfort, and relaxation of hospice patients. Am J Hosp Palliat Care. 2001;18:383-390.
11 Lindenfelser KJ, Hense C, McFerran K. Music therapy in pediatric palliative care: family-centered care to enhance quality of life. Am J Hosp Palliat Care. 2012;29:219-226.
12 Simpson K, Keen D. Music interventions for children with autism: a narrative review of the literature. J Autism Dev Disord. 2011;41:1507-1514.
13 Choi YK. The effect of music and progressive muscle relaxation on anxiety, fatigue, and quality of life in family caregivers of hospice patients. J Music Ther. 2010;47:53-69.
14 Romo R, Gifford L. A cost-benefit analysis of music therapy in a home hospice. Nurs Econ. 2007;25:353-358.
15 How to find a music therapist. American Music Therapy Association web site. http://www.musictherapy.org/about/find/. Accessed June 20, 2015. 16 Schmid W, Ostermann. Home-based music therapy – a systematic overview of settings and conditions for an innovative service in healthcare. BMC Health Serv Res. 2010;10:291.

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Holly Lassila, DrPH, MSEd, MPH, RPh

Domains of Wellness

What is Wellness? Merriam Webster defines wellness as “the quality or state of being healthy”. The definition of “wellness” in Mosby’s Medical Dictionary is “the dynamic state of health in which an individual progresses towards a higher level of functioning, achieving an optimum balance between internal and external environments”. In general, wellness means overall well-being and from a holistic perspective, wellness incorporates the dimensions of mental, emotional, physical, occupational, intellectual, and spiritual aspects of a person’s life. Each of these dimensions acts and interacts in ways that contribute to our quality of life.

Physical Wellness: A healthy body maintained by good nutrition, regular exercise and avoiding harmful habits.

Intellectual Wellness: A state in which our mind is open to new ideas and experiences and is engaged in the interaction with the world around us. This dimension includes the desire to learn new concepts, improve skills and seek challenges in pursuit of lifelong learning.

Emotional Wellness: The ability to understand our own feelings and cope with the challenges which life brings. Emotional wellness implies the ability to express emotions appropriately, adjust to change and cope with stress in a healthy way.

Social Wellness: The ability to relate and connect with others. Social wellness is our ability to establish and maintain positive relationships with family, friends and co-workers. Spiritual Wellness: This dimension is the ability to establish peace and harmony in our lives. It implies that life is meaningful and has a purpose and the ethics, values and morals that guide us given meaning and direction to life.

Occupational Wellness: The ability to get personal fulfillment from our professions or chosen career fields while maintaining balance in our lives. Occupational wellness means having commitment to our occupations that is satisfying and rewarding.

Environmental Wellness: The ability to recognize our own responsibility for the quality of the air, the water and the land that surrounds us.

In our own self-assessment and self-evaluation of the above dimensions we often discover certain dimensions that are balanced and others that we can improve on. Wellness is an active, lifelong process of becoming aware of choices and making decisions towards a more balanced and fulfilling life.

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Irene Petrides, PharmD

Oral Hygiene in End of Life Care

Oral mouth discomfort is often seen in advanced illness and this can strongly affect quality of life. It is therefore important to keep a close watch on a patient’s oral hygiene and make it a priority in the plan of care. Oral health issues can include but are not limited to dysphagia, nutrition and taste problems, thick mucus, difficulty speaking, denture related issues, nausea and vomiting, stomatitis, hypersalivation, mucositis, thrush, and xerostoma.1

Assessment of the patient’s self-care ability is the first step. This will help determine the level of support a patient a will require. Not all patients need full care, a simple reminder or assistance by a caretaker may provide a basic approach in order to stay on the right path of the daily oral regimen. Once a care plan is established, there are measures that can be taken in order to avoid complications which include using a soft toothbrush, avoid mouthwashes that contain alcohol, rinse with saline or soda water, or use moist gauze to wipe cheeks after each meal.2,7 In addition, it is imperative to review medications in order to rule out any undesired oral mucosa effects associated with medication therapy.1 The goal is to maintain optimal oral hygiene with minimal discomfort. Most of the time a proactive approach is desired however in hospice we are often using a palliative oral care approach in symptoms that already exist. Once preventative and standard oral hygiene procedures have been properly assessed and addressed, it may become necessary to treat common complications.

Mucositis is a painful condition that often presents as red or white lesions in the mucosal lining of mouth, pharynx and digestive tract. In the late stages it is associated with fibrosis of connective tissue and hypovascularity. It is most often seen in patients who have received toxic chemotherapy and radiotherapy in head and neck cancer.1,6 Palliative treatment includes viscous lidocaine 2%, combination oral rinse (lidocaine, diphenhydramine, sorbitol and Mylanta), and chlorhexidine gluconate.1

Oropharyngeal Candidiasis (oral thrush) is a condition where white patches can be located in the mouth, inner cheeks, throat, palate and tongue and also is associated with pain. The tissue under the white patches is often raw and sore. The patient may have bad breath, unpleasant taste in the mouth, or dry mouth. Medications that can cause thrush include corticosteroids, antibiotics, and chemotherapy. Patients who have a higher prevalence of candidiasis are those who have cancer, HIV, uncontrolled diabetes, and smokers.3,7 Treatment includes antifungal mouthwash (nsystatin) or lozenges (clotrimazole). Administration of systemic fluconazole or itraconazole may be necessary in the management of more severe cases.1 It is important to remember that if a patient wears dentures they must also be treated separately with antifungal mouth rinse.5

Xerostoma is a symptom referring to dry mouth. Nearly 75% of hospice patients are affected by xerostoma, which is the most common cause of malnutrition in palliative patients. It is often associated with difficulty chewing, altered taste burning sensation, and thick saliva.1,3 Causes of xerostoma may include dehydration, vomiting or diarrhea, medications with anticholinergic activity, benzodiazepines and opioids, radiation, HIV/ AIDS, diabetes, renal failure, and Sjogrens syndrome.1,3 Treatment includes oral hydration such as humidifiers, stimulating salivary reflexes with medications like xylitol, administration of the cholinergic agonist pilocarpine, or using saliva substitutes such Biotene®.

Hypersalivation also known as sialorrhea is an increase in salivary flow. Patients who have neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s disease or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis may find it difficult to manage hypersalivation. Often medications are contraindicated in the treatment due to the side effects associated with anticholinergic drugs. If the patient’s quality of life is affected, anticholinergic medications such as atropine, glycopyrrolate, or scopolamine can be used.1

Dysphagia, or difficulty swallowing effectively, is a common symptom seen in hospice care. Food debris and saliva accumulate in the oral cavity which can increase bacterial growth. Inadequate oral hygiene at this point in care may increase the patient’s risk of developing aspiration.4 Therefore dysphagia may not only have a negative impact on oral health but also on the systemic health of a hospice patient. Despite minimizing debris in the oral cavity with adequate oral hygiene other preventative measures are necessary in order to avoid undesired complications. The most common non-invasive approaches include pleasure feeding, pureed diet, and crushing medications.1,4

Awareness of oral hygiene in the hospice patient should be an extension of the palliative care plan. Identifying oral health barriers, preventing major complications and treating oral conditions is the mainstay of managing oral hygiene. In conclusion comfort care and palliative treatment are established in oral care if a patient can eat and drink adequately with minimal pain or discomfort.


References:

1. Mulk BS, Chintamaneni RL, Mpv P, Gummadapu S, Salvadhi SS. Palliative Dental Care- A Boon for Debilitating. Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research : JCDR. 2014;8(6):ZE01-ZE06. doi:10.7860/JCDR/2014/8898.4427.

2. Chen X, Chen H, Douglas C, Preisser JS, Shuman SK. Dental treatment intensity in frail older adults in the last year of life. Journal of the American Dental Association (1939). 2013;144(11):1234-1242.

3. Alt-Epping B, Nejad RK, Jung K, Groß U, Nauck F. Symptoms of the oral cavity and their association with local microbiological and clinical findings—a prospective survey in palliative care. Supportive Care in Cancer. 2012;20(3):531-537. doi:10.1007/s00520-011-1114-z.

4. Gallagher R. Swallowing difficulties: A prognostic signpost. Canadian Family Physician. 2011;57(12):1407-1409.

5. Saini R, Marawar P, Shete S, Saini S, Mani A. Dental Expression and Role in Palliative Treatment. Indian Journal of Palliative Care. 2009;15(1):26-29. doi:10.4103/0973-1075.53508.

6. Davies, Andrew, and Ilora G. Finlay, eds. Oral care in advanced disease. Oxford University Press, 2005.

7. O’Reilly M. Oral care of the critically ill: a review of the literature and guidelines for practice. Australian Critical Care. 2003;16(3):101-110. doi:10.1016/s1036-7314(03)80007-3.

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Michelle Mikus, PharmD

POEMS: Patient Oriented Evidence that Matters

We’ve entered a time where everything can be searched on the internet, and now patients have wanted to be more involved in their medical treatment than ever before. Talking to a patient and their families and caregivers is often quite different than talking to another healthcare professional and begs the question “What is important to both patient and medical provider?” That is where Patient Oriented Evidence that Matters (POEMs) comes into play.

Two practitioners introduced the POEMs concept into medicine: David Slawson and Allen Shaughnessy from the University of Virginia. They actually came up with the concept from a formula: U = R·V / W. The formula seeks to equate the information doctors find to its usefulness. In short, the more relevant (R) and valid (V) the information is and the less work (W) it takes to find correlates with higher usefulness (U). With the internet at everyone’s fingertips, practitioners are suffering from “the information paradox” as Muir Gray from the National Electronic Library of Health states, which is described as so much information that they may not be able to find what they need when they need it. This is where POEMs can be useful.

POEMs must meet three criteria: a) address a question that a doctor encounters, b) measure outcomes that doctors AND their patients care about (symptoms, morbidity, mortality, QOL), and c) have the potential to change the way doctors practice. Conventional journal articles outline in high detail specifics about clinical manifestations, however this is not language that the layperson can understand nor will it ultimately affect them. Often journal articles do not ultimately answer a question. The advantage of POEMs includes communication that is centered on what really matters to the patient in a way that is meaningful to the doctor also. A typical POEM report would pose the patient specific question and then provide a bottom line before going into detail. This summary format makes them quite user friendly.

Evidence-based medicine, by definition, integrates patient values and expectations as a core feature along with both individual clinical expertise and the best external evidence. It is a process that starts with the patient presentation/question and ends with the incorporation of findings into the patient’s care, but in the middle includes literature searches and evaluations. By focusing the search and evaluation steps on POEMs, the patient will remain at the center of the care. In addition, information discovered has the potential to be more relevant and valid while requiring less work.

Sample POEM with hospice focus Olanzapine for intractable nausea and vomiting:

Clinical Question: What can be used to treat intractable nausea that has been refractory to conventional nausea medications?

Bottom Line: Olanzapine (Zyprexa) has been found to very effectively control nausea due to its broad spectrum of activity at a dose of 5mg at bedtime.

Reference: Atkinson SR. Olanzapine for intractable nausea and vomiting in palliative care patients not receiving chemotherapy. J Palliat Med. 2014 May;17(5):503-4

Study Design: Retrospective review

Setting: Palliative care

Synopsis: Multiple studies have shown olanzapine to be effective for chemotherapy induced nausea and vomiting however none had previously studied the drug for non-chemotherapy receiving patients with intractable nausea. This type of nausea reduces the quality of life for patients and often results in multiple trials of different medications—sometimes in combination. Patients averaging 65 years in age that were not receiving chemotherapy were initiated scheduled olanzapine 5mg at bedtime. The need for other anti-emetics and rescue anti-emetics was significantly reduced and there were no extrapyramidal side effects reported. One patient required a reduction in dose to 2.5mg at bedtime due to somnolence. Overall, olanzapine has proven again to be effective in addition to being cost effective and its use in intractable nausea and vomiting will reduce drug interactions and polypharmacy.


References:

1. Shaughnessy AF, Slawson DC, Bennett JH. Becoming an information master: a guidebook to the medical information jungle. J Fam Pract. 1994;39:489-499.

2. Smith, Richard. A POEM a week for the BMJ. BMJ 2002;325:983 3. Smith, Richard. What clinical information do doctors need? BMJ 1996;313:1062-1068.

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