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What Is the Hospice Comfort Kit?

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Updated December 21, 2009

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Question: What Is the Hospice Comfort Kit?
My hospice nurse told us we would have a comfort kit delivered from a pharmacy to keep in our home "just in case." What is a comfort kit?
Answer:

The hospice comfort kit - also known as the emergency kit, e-kit, or hospice kit - is a prescribed set of medications that are kept in a patient's home in the event of an emergency. Having the medications already in your home will help the hospice team treat any distressing symptoms as quickly as possible.

The hospice comfort kit may be ordered and delivered to your home at the start of hospice care or anytime the case manager nurse sees a possible need. The actual contents of the kit vary. In some cases, it may be custom-designed for the hospice diagnosis -- this will vary widely among hospice agencies. The most basic of comfort kits contain medications for pain, anxiety, nausea, insomnia and breathing problems. A more full list of medications that may be found in a hospice comfort kit and the symptoms they might treat:

  • Morphine liquid - used to treat pain and shortness of breath
  • Ativan (Lorazepam) - can be used to treat anxiety, nausea or insomnia
  • Atropine drops - used to treat wet respirations, also known as the death rattle
  • Levsin - an anti-cholinergic like atropine, also used to treat wet respirations
  • Haldol (Haloperidol)- can treat agitation and terminal restlessness
  • Compazine (prochlorperazine) - in either pill or rectal suppository form, this medication is used to treat nausea and vomiting
  • Phenergen (promethazine) - an anti-emetic like compazine, phenergen is used to treat nausea and vomiting
  • Dulcolax suppositories (Bisacodyl) - rectal suppositories to treat constipation
  • Senna - a plant-based laxative used to treat constipation
  • Fleet Enema - used to treat constipation if other treatments are ineffective

Other medications may be included depending on the hospice diagnosis. For example, a patient with a brain tumor who is at risk for seizures may have valium suppositories included in his comfort kit.

Your hospice nurse should explain each medication to you including the purpose and correct way to administer it. Some hospice agencies simply instruct their patients not to use any of the medications and then wait for a symptom to occur before explaining the medication. I personally don't like this method of instruction because it requires the patient or caregiver to learn about a new medication under a great deal of stress, which is very difficult to do. If this is how your hospice agency instructed you, I recommend asking your case manager nurse to explain each medication to you before any symptoms actually occur so you can be prepared when and if they do.

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