When a loved one enters the end stages of lung disease, it’s natural to feel stressed, angry, and even scared. In addition to worries about their comfort and health, families often find themselves providing the majority of care and handling all of the many moving parts that fulfilling that responsibility entails. Understanding the causes, symptoms, and stages of lung disease can be helpful to families navigating this complicated illness.
What Are The Causes Of End Stage Lung Disease?
There are many causes of end stage lung disease. Each of them affects the flow of air and blood into and out of the lungs, as well as the gas exchange necessary for breathing.
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
Also known as COPD, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease includes bronchitis and emphysema and makes it more difficult to breathe. The condition often develops slowly, worsening over an extended period of time, and is typically caused by cigarette smoking. Long term exposure to air pollution, chemical fumes, and dust are also common contributors. COPD causes coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, and chest tightness.
Pulmonary fibrosis is a scarring of the lung tissue that prevents the lungs from fully expanding, thereby decreasing function and leading to shortness of breath. Certain types of fibrosis can be caused by mold, being around birds, or exposure to certain chemicals or irritants.
Cystic fibrosis is a disease that affects the body’s ability to produce mucus, sweat, and digestive fluid. It is an inherited disease, meaning that genetics are the only cause, and symptoms do not typically appear until adolescence or early adulthood. They include a persistent cough that produces thick mucus, repeated lung infections, inflamed nasal passages, and poor weight gain and growth.
Pulmonary Vascular Disease
Pulmonary vascular diseases refers to any condition that affects the blood vessels that connect the heart and the lungs. It can be caused by hypertension and pulmonary embolism, and typically causes severe shortness of breath and pain in serious cases.
Symptoms Of End Stage Lung Disease
The symptoms of end stage lung disease vary based on the underlying cause of the illness and the levels of carbon dioxide and oxygen in the bloodstream. The following symptoms are among the most common.
Shortness Of Breath
Shortness of breath is the feeling of not being able to get enough air. This may worsen over time, causing discomfort and making it difficult to take full breaths. It is typically caused by low levels of oxygen in the blood and may require oxygen treatment to resolve.
Patients experiencing fatigue are also suffering from low oxygen levels. They may get tired more easily than usual, and when fatigue worsens, it can limit their ability to walk and maintain other types of physical activity. Fatigued loved ones will likely need help getting from place to place and may need frequent breaks during the day.
Because of their decreased lung function, loved ones may find themselves breathing more quickly as their body’s way of trying to get more oxygen. This symptom is often accompanied by rushed breathing sounds.
High levels of carbon dioxide in the bloodstream can cause confusion, which may appear in several ways. Your loved one may not be sure of where they are, who they are with, or what they are supposed to be doing in that moment. It’s important to speak quietly and avoid startling a confused person, which can frighten them more than they may already feel.
Providing Comfort With Hospice Care
If your loved one is nearing the end of their life and you need some help ensuring they receive the right care, consider hospice services. A professional hospice care team typically consists of doctors, nurses, therapists, and other professionals who will work with your family to create a customized care plan for your loved one. When medical treatments have ceased, the hospice team focuses on ensuring that your loved one is as comfortable as possible. This can include managing their pain medications, helping them dress and bathe, and providing emotional and spiritual counseling to care for their mental wellbeing.
Families can also benefit from hospice care services. While a team member is supporting your loved one, family caregivers can take some time to rest or check up on other responsibilities. They can also receive their own counseling services and valuable advice on care from the professional staff.
Speak With Harbor Light Hospice
Speak with Harbor Light Hospice for more information about hospice care services. The care provider’s experienced staff can provide a customized care plan for lung disease patients to ensure your loved one’s comfort. Services can be provided in the comfort of your loved one’s own home, at a skilled nursing facility, or at an assisted living facility, depending on their needs.