As our loved ones age, they become more susceptible to illnesses that can dramatically change the way they are able to care for themselves and enjoy their lives. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, is one such condition. COPD is an umbrella term that refers to progressive lung diseases, which are often characterized by breathlessness and difficulty breathing. COPD is not curable, so while it’s possible to manage the disease and enjoy life for many years after diagnosis, hospice care services may become necessary someday.
What is COPD?
COPD is not a single illness. Rather, it is a collection of diseases that impact a person’s ability to breathe. Signs and symptoms vary depending on the underlying cause, though common effects include increased shortness of breath, frequent coughing, increased breathlessness, wheezing, and tightness in the chest. Other conditions, such as high blood pressure or depression, can affect COPD and how it is managed.
Causes of COPD
There are several conditions that can cause COPD. Emphysema, which is caused by damage to the air sacs, is one of them. This damage causes the walls in the air sacs to disappear, creating longer ones that do not absorb oxygen well. The lungs also become stretched out and lose their springiness, making it difficult to breathe out.
Chronic bronchitis, or continuous swelling of the bronchial tubes, also causes coughing and shortness of breath. The hair-like fibers in the tubes of the lungs become damaged, making it hard to cough up mucus and further irritating the tubes. This cycle may eventually lead to COPD.
Finally, refractory asthma, another common cause of COPD, is defined as asthma that does not respond to usual medications. The tightening and swelling of the airways that these medications treat cannot be reversed, making breathing more difficult.
Does Your Loved One Need Hospice Care?
Hospice care is typically offered to patients when they have six months or fewer left in their lives. This type of care focuses on retaining a high quality of life, not curing an illness, and can take place in homes, hospitals, hospice centers, and other care facilities.
It can be difficult to determine when severe COPD becomes terminal. If your loved one has a debilitating, severe inability to breathe; frequently visits the hospital for lung infections or respiratory failure; has low levels of oxygen or high levels of carbon dioxide in the blood; or right-sided heart failure related to COPD, it may be time to consider hospice care. Some COPD patients may require a breathing tube, but your loved one may decide against this, also necessitating hospice services.
Benefits of Hospice Care for COPD Patients
Hospice care provides several benefits for patients facing any terminal illness. A team of trained medical professionals, including counselors, therapists, nurses, and doctors, will create a customized care plan designed to make your loved one comfortable and meet your family’s needs. The plan may include regular appointments with a therapist to discuss their feelings, the management of pain medication, and support in dressing, bathing, and eating, among other daily activities. A care team can also help your loved one create legal and medical documents, such as living wills and power of attorney paperwork, that dictates the type of care they would like and ensures their assets will be protected and distributed properly.
COPD patients receive specialized care as well. Your loved one’s care team can create an emergency plan that helps them get support when they can’t breathe and provide round-the-clock care, both of which can be lifesaving measures for those who have frequent difficulty breathing. Hospice care services also include oversight of all equipment, supplies, and medication necessary to manage the condition. This is particularly important if your loved one needs constant access to oxygen machines and other equipment that can be difficult to operate without training.
Finally, hospice care provides relief for family caregivers. While your loved one receives care, you’ll be able to take some time to rest, recharge, or handle other responsibilities for a moment. Hospice care also connects families with their own emotional and spiritual counseling services to help them process their emotions and get the support they need.
Securing Hospice Care Services
Speak to Harbor Light Hospice for more information about hospice care for COPD patients and to schedule a consultation. Harbor Light’s trained staff understand the difficulties of caring for a loved one with COPD and take the time to fully address your family’s needs while providing high quality care. Its hospice care teams members will be in constant communication with your family, each other, and your loved one’s doctors to ensure that their care plan is always making your loved one as comfortable as possible in their own home.