If you or a loved one are living with end-stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, you know the physical and emotional challenges of the illness. Flare-ups during end-stage COPD can lead to frequent hospitalizations and worries about the future.
Patients and their families are often under-supported during this time of great need. Palliative care or hospice adds an extra layer of support for managing the symptoms of COPD. It improves quality of life for patients and their families by addressing social, spiritual and practical issues.
You may be thinking palliative care is only for someone who is close to death. This is not true. Palliative care lets you continue the medicine and therapy you need.
Palliative care also helps you establish goals for end-of-life care. Accepting the limits of treatment for COPD is difficult. There is no cure for COPD, but families too often miss the benefits of early comfort care because they wait until a medical crisis. Palliative care should begin whenever a life-limiting diagnosis is made.
Patients who choose hospice typically have advanced disease and want to avoid unnecessary or aggressive medical treatments. Their wish is to die on their own terms and in the comfort of their own home. At Compassus, we help patients and families take control of their end-of-life decisions.
Shortness of breath
Patients with end-stage COPD often tell us that extreme dyspnea, or shortness of breath, contributes most to their distress and poor quality of life. We work hand-in-hand with doctors to manage dyspnea through:
- Oxygen therapy
- Breathing exercises
- Relaxation techniques
- Body positioning while sitting or sleeping
- Support and education for caregivers
Reducing anxiety and depression
Extreme shortness of breath can have devastating effects on those with COPD. Symptoms may keep them from the simple joys of life, leading to social isolation. Many patients who have difficulty breathing also suffer from anxiety. There are good treatments available to alleviate these symptoms.
End-of-life support for both patients and families:
- Care to reduce episodes of distress and unwanted hospitalizations
- Managing depression and anxiety to a level that meets your goals
- Nurses available 24/7
- Pre-emergency plans
- Comfort care at home, nursing home or wherever the patient lives
- Respite (relief) care for family caregivers
- Hospice social workers to help with transitions in care
- Hospice chaplain for spiritual care and support
- Hospice volunteers offer companionship
Patients with COPD have good days and bad days; good weeks and bad weeks, but pain medication typically works best on a regular schedule. Hospice providers have extensive experience managing pain. They are trained to offer the right medications, at the right dose, at the right time.
Hospice and palliative care both offer relief from the pain and symptoms of COPD. Both can address the mental, social and spiritual needs of a patient. In fact, hospice is a type of palliative care during the final stage of life.
Medicare benefits limit hospice care to patients with a life expectancy of six months or less. Only a doctor can make a clinical decision about life expectancy. It’s important for patients to share their goals for care, especially during times of frequent hospitalization or in palliative care.
Hospice is a fully covered Medicare benefit
Coverage includes nurses, other caregivers, medicines, supplies, equipment and support, with no out-of-pocket expenses for the hospice diagnosis.