Common Hospice Medications

Morphine Sulfate (Roxanol, Liquid Morphine, Morphine)

  • Morphine sulfate is used to reduce pain and can also be used to minimize shortness of breath.
  • It is most effective when taken before pain or shortness of breath become severe.
  • Morphine is generally started at the lowest dose and increased if needed to treat symptoms.
  • The most common side effects are sedation, mild nausea and constipation. Often times sedation and nausea will resolve after a few days of use as the body becomes accustomed to the medication.
  • Because morphine slows the bowel, constipation can be an ongoing problem. Stool softeners are recommended when taking morphine to prevent constipation.
  • Liquid morphine and immediate release morphine tablets can be administered under the tongue or in the cheek if the patient cannot swallow (excludes MS Contin or Morphine ER).

Lorazepam (Ativan)

  • Lorazepam is used to reduce anxiety and/or restlessness. It may also be used for shortness of breath and insomnia.
  • It is most effective when taken before symptoms become severe.
  • Lorazepam is generally started at the lowest dose and increased if needed to treat symptoms.
  • The most common side effect of Lorazepam is sedation.
  • Lorazepam tablets can be placed under the tongue or in the cheek if the patient cannot swallow. The tablets can also be dissolved in a small amount of warm water and placed under the tongue or in the cheek.
  • It is acceptable to give both Lorazepam and morphine at the same time if needed for comfort.

Prochlorperazine (Compazine)

  • Prochlorperazine is used to reduce nausea/vomiting.
  • Prochlorperazine can be taken as a tablet by mouth or can be administered rectally if a patient is too nauseated to swallow.
  • Prochlorperazine is most effective when taken before nausea/vomiting becomes severe.
  • The most common side effect of Prochlorperazine is mild sedation.

Atropine Drops

  • Atropine drops are used to reduce lung congestion.
  • The drops are administered in the mouth or under the tongue.
  • The most common side effect of Atropine is dry mouth.
  • Providing sips of water or ice chips or swabbing the patient’s mouth can reduce mouth dryness caused by Atropine.

Acetaminophen (Tylenol)

  • Acetaminophen is used to reduce discomfort and treat fevers.
  • Acetaminophen can be administered in a tablet by mouth or by a suppository rectally.
  • Fevers can be uncomfortable for patients and Acetaminophen can be very helpful.
  • The maximum daily dose of Acetaminophen is 4,000mg.

Questions? Please contact Home Health United – Hospice at 800-924-2273.

Download a printable version – Hospice for Professionals – Common Hospice Medications