Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Myth of Morphine

There is a prevailing myth in the world about hospice and morphine. I know I believed it and hospice tells us they encounter this almost every time they go into a home. I knew hospice came in before the coma stage but the myth we all believed was that when the morphine started we were essentially starting to put her into a medicated coma and she was going to start sleeping a lot.


We would have started the morphine weeks earlier had we know that she would not only be alert but happy again! Its not a drugged silly stupor either. She is comfortable enough to be herself. How I wish we had known! The last few days have been wonderful. Smiles are back and she just seems....comfortable. I feel like we are abusing that word but its really the best description. They mean what they say in the term comfort care. From what I understand when the morphine levels get really high there is a lot of sleeping, but I'm not sure if at that point its from the morphine or because the body is shutting down.

We are lucky we had started the medication and had her comfortable because she had what I would describe as her first experience with "air hunger." It wasn't horrible but we should have figured something was wrong earlier. She was telling me that she hadn't been given her anxiety meds and I was telling her we had given them to her but she was still really frustrated and agitated. She seemed really uncomfortable and fidgety. I could kick myself for not evaluating her all overall but we were working so hard to distract or make her comfortable that we were missing how hard she was breathing and that her retractions were really deep.

She finally told us she couldn't breath when we looked it was shocking. We put her mask on her and she calmed down and we eventually got her comfortable again. Its been busy with all of the different hospice workers coming in and we had a new bed delivered that is the TURBO comfort low air loss alternating mattress. She was having a sore spot on her tailbone and thighs, a sure sign of a pressure sore starting, but that is already getting much better just after her nap in the bed.

It feels good to know we were on top of things enough that when we hit this first air hunger type of moment she was already medicated enough that it was not too traumatic. (Sigh) At the same time its like we just got everything figured out. There were smiles and peace for just a brief moment and now we are moving right along into the next stage. I guess that's good, its what she wants. The process is just exhausting! Its hard when you see her uncomfortable and so you do everything you can to make it better but you get so caught up in the pressure when all you really need to do is take a step back. That is the hardest lesson to learn, and just when you think you've mastered it everything changes again.


  1. Thinking of you, even though I don't know you. I feel strangely connected. Praying for comfort for your Mom. And all of you, of course.

  2. Following your blog! Praying for you all. Your strength and perspective is such an example to us. We love you Bro. and Sis. Rober.

    Desiree Nordstrom (Mattice)

  3. That seriously makes me soooo beyond happy to read! Sorry I missed your call this morning. We are a house full of major sickies and I was asleep.

    YEY for Morphine!

  4. My heart reaches out to all of you. I don't know how else to explain it. My chest hurt reading this. Love you all. xoxoxo

  5. Yay for Hospice & Yay for morphine! My dad didn't get super tired either with the morphine, he was still alert, but comfortable. So glad Caroline is feeling more comfortable, that's the most important thing right now!

  6. You are really an angel for your mom. You seem to be handling everything so well. Loved the little letter you wrote her when you were young. I ache for you and her and your whole family.

  7. Lisa, you are fantastic. I am sure your mom and dad are very proud of how you have stepped up to help on this voyage. You have inherited your mom's tremendous spirit. Bless you.

    Joel Mascitelli

  8. My experience was quite different. Hospice is supposed to make the patient comfortable until they die, not kill them. Morphine is not to blame, it is the improper and deliberate action to kill that gives it its stigma. My sister is the type who believes in euthanasia, but my mother is not! Since my sister was controlling everything she dealt with the doctors and hospice. By the time I figured out what was actually happening it was too late. People do die from morphine, but it is not the morphine that is killing them, it is the people who have chosen to administer it in such large quantities who are actually doing the killing. As morphine kills it mimics many of the typical signs that accompany death. You need not watch out for morphine, but you do need to be on the alert for family and doctors who feel that it is ok the kill for that sake of money and their own personal pain. My mother was smiling and happy one day and three short days later she was in a hospital bed all doped up. When I kindly asked for the morphine to be reduced I was threatened with a call to the police. Understand the dosages and know who is doing what and when, or you are likely to be having someone choose to murder your loved one.

  9. Dear Anonymous,

    I'm sorry your experience was so negative since we had such a positive experience. I hope you find peace with the past and are able to move forward.

    Much love,

  10. God bless you and your family. Yey for morphine!!!! I remember my mom was in the hospice with cancer and morphine can make all the difference in the world when you're seriously ill. God bless all for sharing there stories.

  11. Thank you for sharing this. My mother has ALS and just this afternoon went on morphine. We hope, of course, for the most painless process possible.