What Is Haldol?

What Is Haldol?

Haldol—otherwise known as haloperidol—is an antipsychotic medicine that is mainly used to treat disorders such as schizophrenia. In hospice, however, Haldol is used to terminal delirium and agitation. It is also useful as a medication for vomiting and nausea.

Over the years, Haldol has garnered a bad reputation for itself. However, it is recognized by leading professionals as an essential medicine for use in end-of-life hospice care.

This article will discuss when it is appropriate to use this medication in hospice treatment and will also explain the benefits and side effects of Haloperidol.

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When Is it Appropriate to Use Haldol?

In hospice care, Haldol is most frequently used to treat terminal delirium. Terminal delirium is usually defined as the sudden onset of disorientation and confusion, restlessness, and occasionally agitation often observed in patients near the end of their life.

Haldol is used to minimize agitation. This helps to keep the patient comfortable and also helps reduce the stress placed on family caregivers and other loved ones. Some people also use Haldol for pain management or for nausea and vomiting.

Before Haldol is used to treat a patient, their hospice nurse will first rule out any reversible causes of their agitation. If any are identified and treated, there may be no need to administer Haldol to the patient.

Some reversible causes of terminal delirium include:

  • Pain
  • Infections
  • Medication
  • Constipation
  • Urinary retention
If the above can be ruled out, then it may be appropriate to treat the patient using haloperidol.

Uses of Haldol

In hospice, haloperidol is used for a variety of symptoms. An antipsychotic, it is mostly used to treat terminal delirium. Sometimes terminally ill patients may become increasingly restless and even aggressive during the final days. Haldol can help treat this when non-pharmacological treatments have been tried but have not worked.

In some cases, Haldol may also be used to help treat pain. Haloperidol is fairly effective in pain management and has been most successfully used to treat headaches, nausea, and vomiting.

Haloperidol can also be used successfully in the treatment of gastroparesis.

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Side Effects of Haldol

Like most medications, Haldol can cause many side effects. Some of these side effects are more serious than others; however, it may be that a patient will not be bothered with any side effects at all. Nonetheless, it is good to be aware of possible side effects before accepting treatment with Haldol.

Haloperidol’s side effects include:

  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Breast swelling
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Blurred vision
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Uncontrollable body movements and spasms
This list is not an exhaustive one. Despite these possible side effects, you may still decide that Haldol is worth trying because of its benefits. Really, there is no standard advice that applies to everyone; every patient has their own set of needs, and some may benefit from Haldol treatment more than others.

Is Haldol a Good or Bad Medication?

As is the case with most other medications, there is no straightforward answer to this question. The usefulness and effectiveness of Haldol differ from person to person. It may prove very helpful to some people struggling with terminal delirium, and less so to others.

Likewise, some people may be more severely affected by side effects than others. Some individuals may not have any side effects at all. Others may experience mild ones such as headaches or nausea. Others still may find that their side effects are more severe.

If your physician or hospice care team recommends that you use Haldol, you will first have to undergo a thorough evaluation. While you are being treated with Haldol, you will also be closely monitored by the hospice team.

In short, Haldol is neither good nor bad: it is simply more helpful to some than others. Hospice nurses ensure that you are only given Haldol injections if you need them and that you are put on a dose that is appropriate for you.

Where To Find More Information

If you would like to find out more information about the use of Haldol in hospice care, or if you have questions about hospice care more generally, you can find out more by giving All American Hospice a call.

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