Many illnesses cause difficulty breathing. When a loved one is having to work harder to breathe or not getting enough oxygen, they may be in a state of respiratory distress. Learning the signs of respiratory distress and knowing how to respond can save your loved one’s life if they are having serious difficulty getting air. Taking a CPR class can prepare you for medical emergencies such as these. If your loved one is experiencing any of the below signs of respiratory distress, call 911 or notify a health care professional if they are in a healthcare facility.
An increased breathing rate is often one of the first signs of respiratory distress. Your loved one may increase the number of breaths they take per minute if they are having difficulty breathing or are not getting enough oxygen in their bloodstream. This, in turn, can cause chest pain, high blood pressure, and even confusion as the body struggles to get the oxygen it needs to function.
If your loved one is struggling to breathe, their skin may begin to slightly change color. A bluish color may appear around the mouth, on the inside of the lips, and even on the fingernails when in respiratory distress. Their skin may also appear pale or gray. Keep a close eye on your loved one’s coloring, and if they appear to develop a bluish or pale tint, call for emergency help.
In an effort to get more oxygen, your loved one’s nose may flare out. This symptom is most common in children and infants, though people of any age may experience it when they are ill or having difficulty breathing. Though nasal flaring is not painful, it can be a sign of serious distress in infants and requires immediate care.
Retractions occur when the chest appears to sink in just below the neck or under the breastbone with each breath. It can also be seen under the rib cage or in the muscles between the ribs. This is a sign that your loved one is trying to bring more air into their lungs and is one of the most visible symptoms of respiratory distress.
Wheezing and Grunting
Those who are having difficulty breathing may grunt each time they exhale, which is the body’s way of trying to keep air in the lungs so they stay open longer. Wheezing, which is characterized as a tight whistling sound with each breath, indicates that their air passages may be smaller and tighter.
A faster breathing rate can cause a person to sweat, though their skin will not feel warm to the touch. Instead, the skin often feels cool or clammy. Sweat typically appears on the head in these instances.
A sudden movement forward while sitting to take deeper breaths indicates the possibility of collapse. Be prepared to assist your loved one before they fall over, which can cause serious injury even if they are falling from a seated position.
Considering Hospice Care Services
Hospice care services can help you provide the best support for loved ones with lung disease and other respiratory issues. These services are designed to maintain patients’ comfort, not cure their illness. Through hospice care, your loved one will receive assistance with pain management, exercise, light house cleaning and more. They will also have access to emotional and spiritual counseling throughout their time in hospice care.
While your loved one receives personalized care, family caregivers can take time to rest, recharge and handle other tasks if necessary, offering a welcome break during the often emotional process of caring for a loved one. They also receive counseling services and the expert guidance of healthcare professionals, who can answer pressing questions and coordinate care with other members of the medical team.
When to Consider Hospice Care
Doctors typically recommend patients for hospice care when they have fewer than six months to live. If you have been feeling overwhelmed with your loved one’s care, or if you realize that they require more specialized care than you are able to provide, the assistance of a specialized hospice care team may be beneficial. Hospice care services can be provided in your loved one’s home, which can help them feel comfortable and maintain their independence for as long as possible, or in any medical care facility if necessary.
Securing Hospice Care Services
Speak to Harbor Light Hospice for more information about hospice care services and how they can benefit your family. The agency connects families with dedicated teams of nurses, doctors, therapists, and medical professionals who create customized care plans that maintain your loved one’s comfort. Harbor Light also provides emotional and spiritual counseling services for patients and their families, helping to care for the whole person during a difficult stage of life.