Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD is a chronic illness which affects millions of individuals in the U.S. In 2013, COPD was the third leading cause of death in the United States (American Lung Association, 2013). COPD is progressive and currently there is no cure. However, it can be managed to a degree depending on how far the disease has advanced upon diagnosis.
What Does Hospice Do?
Hospice care addresses the physical, mental, spiritual and emotional needs of patients afflicted with a life-limiting illness. Hospice care is not curative treatment and is designed to enhance overall quality of life. Although personnel may vary by provider, hospice utilizes an interdisciplinary team that will typically include medical workers, social workers, spiritual aids and volunteers. Caregivers also play a vital role in hospice care as they provide the patient with support when hospice workers are not present. Addressing the spiritual and psychological needs is one of the care elements that makes hospice unique. Hospice helps to guide patients and families during end-of-life which is a confusing but natural part of life.
Avoiding Invasive Treatment
Patients who enroll in hospice typically wish to avoid invasive medical treatments and want to pass on their own terms in the comfort of their own home. This means that except in the case of an emergency, patients will forego life-sustaining treatments. For example, patients may enact a “Do Not Resuscitate” (DNR) order which would direct emergency personnel not to take certain invasive measures should complications related to the terminal illness arise. It is important to remember that this does not mean medical treatment is not provided in many scenarios. For example, a patient who breaks a bone in an accident would still receive treatment for the injury despite being on hospice care.
What Services Are Provided?
Each patient will have different needs depending on their illness and unique circumstance. For example, COPD patients will have different needs than a patient suffering from advanced dementia/alzheimer’s. Patients and their families need to know that they do not have to face serious illness alone. Managing life with end-stage COPD takes a mental and emotional toll on patients and their caregivers. Hospice is designed to help reduce stress by providing numerous different services. Depending on the care that is needed, hospice may provide some or all of the following services:
- Comfort care services
- Physician oversight
- Nursing care and case management
- Access to medical equipment, medications relating to the terminal illness and other supplies
- Spiritual, emotional and psychological guidance
- Patient companionship and social support
- Caregiver respite
- 24/7 on-call availability
- Other services
Hospice Care for COPD Patients
Patients suffering from end-stage lung disease have specific needs that are unique to their illness. Hospice care provides care for patients afflicted with a life-limiting illness and can be utilized to address the unique needs of COPD patients. Although hospice care is reserved for patients who have been given a diagnosis of six months or less left to live, patients need to understand that hospice is truly about living life to the fullest and enhancing overall quality of life.
Unique Challenges of End-of-life Care for COPD Patients
It is not always understood by the general that hospice care can be utilized by any individual afflicted with a life-limiting illness. The care regiment provided to a hospice patient will be defined by the patient’s unique needs. Hospice care can support the unique needs of COPD patients. COPD is a progressive disease and as the disease progresses, COPD patients and caregivers may need assistance with managing the increasing needs of the patient. This may include assistance with adjusting oxygen levels and delivery methods in addition to administering and managing pain medication. They will also need support when facing the natural feelings of fear and distress that will develop as the disease progresses. COPD patients may also be prone to certain complications relating to their disease. For example, a patient may develop pneumonia and would require additional medical assistance. Managing COPD that is coupled with additional medical complications can be especially difficult without professional medical assistance such as the services provided by hospice care.
A Peaceful Death
Hospice care can be provided in a number of locations, but is widely accessed by individuals who wish to pass in a familiar home setting surrounded by loved ones. Preparing the home for a COPD patient is a very involved process as medical as oxygen administration equipment is required to provide adequate care. Hospice care providers help caregivers mitigate feelings of stress by helping them navigate the process of home preparation. By providing them with the necessary equipment and information needed to provide hospice care at home, patients and families can focus on enjoying their remaining time together.
Electing Hospice Care
The decision to elect hospice care resides with the patient and is by no means required. Patients should also know that they can decide to stop utilizing hospice at any time. Hospice care focuses on helping patients and their caregivers navigate the unfamiliar terrain of end-of-life. It provides symptom management and support so that a patient can pass in a peaceful and dignified manner in familiar setting, as opposed to an urgent care facility or emergency room. If you or someone you care about is afflicted with end-stage COPD then remember – hospice can provide the support needed to live life to the fullest while dying. Contact Harbor Light Hospice by giving us a call or sending us a message online today for more information on the benefits of hospice care.