End-stage COPD, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, can cause a variety of symptoms and complications, and families often worry about how to provide proper care for a loved one with advanced lung disease. COPD patients in hospice care get access to a team of caregivers who know how to help manage symptoms and ensure the highest quality of life possible.

Understanding End-Stage COPD

COPD typically is considered a long-term progressive lung disease, so by the time patients reach the final stage, they have experienced symptoms such as shortness of breath and phlegm-producing coughs for many years. COPD might also be diagnosed as emphysema or chronic bronchitis. Smoke, air pollution and chemical exposure can all cause or worsen COPD, so smokers and people who have spent time around environmental hazards are at higher risk.

When a patient reaches end-stage COPD, it becomes more difficult to breathe. Coughing may become more frequent, and coughing bouts last longer. Some COPD patients find breathing painful, and eating becomes more difficult as it gets harder to coordinate breathing and swallowing. Patients might also experience dyspnea, a feeling of not being able to get enough air. Dyspnea often causes anxiety, which makes it even harder to breathe normally.

Hospice care helps minimize the distress caused by COPD and can help patients manage symptoms to improve their quality of life. Three Oaks Hospice offers a wide range of options for families who want help caring for a patient with advanced lung disease.

How Hospice Helps COPD Patients

Caregivers are often at a loss when it comes to managing symptoms of COPD in a loved one, so getting help from skilled hospice workers can ease the burden. Hospice care is focused on quality of life. Another goal of hospice care for COPD patients in particular is to reduce unwanted hospitalizations, so symptom management is often centered around this goal. Ways that a hospice team might help your loved one with COPD include:

Developing an emergency plan

Sudden episodes of dyspnea can cause intense distress for COPD patients. The hospice team can help develop a plan for when these episodes occur, which can reduce the duration of the incident and make COPD less stressful.

Managing oxygen therapy

Some patients with advanced lung disease require oxygen therapy, particularly if they are experiencing frequent severe bouts of dyspnea. A hospice caregiver can help the patient manage their doctor-prescribed oxygen use during episodes of respiratory distress. This might involve helping the patient put on an oxygen mask or adjusting the levels of oxygen to make the patient more comfortable.

Medication management

Doctors often prescribe medication for people with advanced lung disease, and hospice care workers can help remind the patient to take pills on schedule and administer prescribed medication. Medicines may help COPD patients breathe easier because they reduce the soreness associated with taking a deep breath, which can reduce the need for other interventions.

Practicing techniques to ease breathing difficulties

Hospice workers caring for a COPD patient might help guide the patient through relaxation exercises or teach breathing techniques that can ease the pain and anxiety associated with dyspnea.

Arranging the patient in comfortable positions

Sometimes, the sleeping or sitting position of the patient can ease or exacerbate any existing breathing issues. Hospice nurses and home care workers might help position your loved one to optimize breathing and ensure comfort in a bed or chair.

Reducing fatigue

Patients with COPD often become fatigued easily, even while doing tasks that once were easy. Overexertion can lead to further breathing difficulty. Hospice workers assist with everyday tasks that have become difficult for the patient, such as cooking, cleaning and personal grooming activities. Helping the patient stay relaxed and reducing strenuous activity may help decrease the frequency of coughing fits or dyspnea.

Caregiver education

Often, families aren’t sure exactly how to help their loved one with COPD. A hospice team can answer questions about the illness and offer suggestions for making the patient’s day-to-day life easier. Bereavement counseling is also available for family members as they face the upcoming loss of their loved one.

Peaceful End-of-Life Care

End-of-life care for patients with advanced lung disease isn’t just about minimizing coughing fits and helping the patient breathe comfortably. It also involves addressing the mental and emotional toll of COPD.

Patients at the end of life often experience depression and anxiety. The fear of being unable to breathe freely is an added concern for COPD patients, which can make worry even worse. Patients may be concerned about having a breathing episode when friends or family are present and might socially isolate themselves to avoid this possibility. A hospice team includes members who help ease anxiety and loneliness by providing conversation and distraction from persistent symptoms. Hospice social workers, chaplains and volunteers can all play a role in helping patients with emotional, mental and spiritual concerns.

A hospice team also helps the family of a COPD patient. Home aides help take care of everyday tasks so caregivers can concentrate on their loved one. Respite care gives caregivers a break from providing 24-hour care to help prevent caregiver burnout. Hospice workers who help care for the patient’s pet help ensure that the COPD patient’s beloved animal companion remains nearby to provide comfort. At-home hospice care lets the patient spend the final weeks or months of life in a familiar setting, surrounded by loved ones.

Hospice Decisions for Patients with Advanced Lung Disease

As always, the decision to enter hospice and the type of hospice care desired is up to the patient and family. The choice of whether to use medication and oxygen therapy is generally made by the family in consultation with the patient’s doctor, so the specifics of symptom management may differ between patients. A hospice team will work with the patient’s regular medical team to ensure that the patient remains comfortable and at peace during the end stages of COPD.

With locations in Texas, Missouri, Illinois and Kansas, Three Oaks Hospice offers caring, compassionate care to terminal patients in a setting most comfortable for them. If you’re searching for a hospice care provider, look no further than Three Oaks Hospice.