What to Know About Giving Oral Morphine in End-Stage Dementia

Just because someone may be nearing the end of life is no reason for pain to be part of the experience. Oral morphine, prescribed by a physician, is often used in hospice and palliative care because it acts quickly and is and easy to give.

What's important to know:

  • Many people are distressed by the idea of morphine, but don't be put off by the idea of using a powerful drug. It's not going to hasten death in any way; instead, it will help your loved one rest more comfortably.

  • If your loved one's doctor suggests that oral morphine is a good option, use the medicine dropper provided to get an exact measurement.

  • You can dilute the morphine in a couple of ounces of beverage if you're sure your loved one will drink the whole thing. Otherwise, it's best to drop the slightly bitter liquid directly into the mouth and then follow immediately with ice cream or juice or another beverage to mask the taste.

  • Pain relief comes within 10 to 15 minutes and lasts for several hours.

  • Ideally, morphine should be used in conjunction with nonmedical comfort measures, such as touch, music, pleasant smells, and so on.

Paula Spencer Scott

Paula Spencer Scott is the author of Surviving Alzheimer's: Practical Tips and Soul-Saving Wisdom for Caregivers and much of the Alzheimer's and caregiving content on Caring. See full bio

30 days, said...

My feeling is morphene robs the patients ability to communicate thoughts to loved ones in end stages of life. If not absolutely necessary, why take away another’s ability to think clearly and posture thoughts in death?

over 4 years, said...

constipation is a very real problem, also especially when my husband can no longer walk, and in a rest home, your article was very helpful.

over 5 years, said...

Why administer it orally and not via IV? Or is this meant for at-home end-stage dementia? I have to disagree that morphine will not hasten death. Morphine depresses respiration and blood pressure, both of which contribute to a hastened death. Physicians and other medical professionals know this. My mother's end-stage dementia is not painful and I don't know why it would be painful unless she had kidney stones, biliary tract obstruction or some other illness/infection. In addition, she has dysphagia and can not swallow any tablets. In liquid form, she would aspirate. There are other medications for pain reduction, such as scopolamine absorbed through the skin by an adhesive patch. I'm not adverse to assisting my mother in death by the use of morphine if she ever develops pain, but I just think caregivers should be aware in advance that morphine is not just for pain relief.

about 6 years, said...

my mom passed on 4-11-2012. She went very peasefully the morphine helped her. thank you all for your help .

about 6 years, said...

In the event that a loved one does has demintia I know where to access information and advice as well as being directed to resources and professionals that can help me deal with the sittuation at hand. Thank you for you supprt and direction. renee

about 6 years, said...

granny. Is there anything else I should know now or what to watch for? thanks again

about 6 years, said...

thank you for the article on morphine it helped. My mom is now on morphine, she seems to be in a lot of pain, but the med also causes constipation, that is also painful.