Hospice care is an important medical service that is designed to help patients and their families during the end-of-life phase. It provides practical, physical, emotional, and spiritual comfort and support in order to make a patient’s remaining time as pain-free and comfortable as possible.
End Of Life Care
End-of-life care describes the support and medical care provided to a person during the time preceding death. This is not only during the moments leading up to death but it can also include caring for a person with a chronic illness who may need a lot of care for days, weeks, or even months, before death. This type of care aims to prevent or relieve a patient’s suffering as much as possible in order to improve the quality of their remaining life.
Hospice care offers a variety of care services to patients and families who are facing the end of life. It is intended for people who can no longer benefit from regular medical treatment and want to live their remaining time with optimal comfort, dignity, privacy, and minimal suffering. Many patients during their end-of-life stage prefer to be in the comfort of their own home. Trained hospice aides can provide compassionate and comprehensive care to patients, regardless of whether they are staying at home or in a facility, to ensure their needs are met and preferences are respected.
Managing Breathing Difficulties
Many people towards end-of-life experience breathing difficulties. Shortness of breath, known as dyspnea, is a common breathing problem that is often associated with chronic conditions such as heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and pulmonary fibrosis. Shortness of breath can also trigger panic and anxiety, making breathing much more difficult. Breathlessness can feel different for patients. Patients may:
- Have a feeling of tightness in the chest
- Have trouble getting enough air with each breath
- Have to work harder to take a breath
- Have an inability to finish a sentence due to breathlessness
For some patients, shortness of breath may come on suddenly, whilst for others it may develop more slowly, getting gradually worse over time. It may also come and go, or be a continuous problem.
Breathing difficulties can be very distressing and frightening for people in hospice care and for family caregivers. Trained hospice aides can help to provide the necessary care to help a patient manage breathing difficulties and improve patient comfort and overall quality of life. They can provide a range of therapies to help patients and their caregivers prepare for and manage breathing difficulties more effectively. Therapies may include:
Finding strategies to cope with shortness of breath, and the anxieties surrounding breathing trouble can help to ease symptoms and prevent breathlessness from escalating and becoming a crisis. Some non-medical therapies include:
- Breathing exercises, such as diaphragmatic and pursed-lip breathing, can help to teach patients to take fuller breaths and stay relaxed, open the airways, slow breathing, and/or exhale more fully.
- Relaxation techniques to keep problems from escalating.
- Correcting poor posture to relieve pressure on the diaphragm and lungs, and thus improve breathing.
- Making changes to the environment to help improve breathing, such as removing irritants (smoke, dust, or pet dander), increasing humidity, lowering room temperature, or introducing a fan to move air across the face.
A variety of disorders can contribute to breathing problems. Depending on the cause of the breathlessness, certain medications may help to treat underlying conditions that are contributing to breathing difficulties, or to treat the breathlessness and related symptoms. The cause of breathlessness, along with other factors, will determine which medication is most suited to the patient. Medication may be used to improve labored breathing, relax the airways, manage breathlessness, loosen mucus or reduce inflammation in the airways, or relieve anxiety. Medications may include:
- Opioids (predominantly morphine)
Problems associated with breathing can be complex. Sometimes, patients who feel breathless still have normal oxygen levels. Oxygen therapy isn’t always suitable for patients with breathing difficulties, or even for all patients with low oxygen levels. Hospice care will help to identify whether oxygen therapy is suitable to ease breathing problems.
Hospice Care Services in Bastrop, Texas
The professionals of Serenity Hospice are experts in providing compassionate and personal care to patients in their preferred environment. We understand that preparation for end-of-life care can be a very upsetting and challenging time for patients and their families, and our hospice care team will support you every step of the way.
If you would like to learn more about the services we provide or to set up an appointment to meet with one of our providers, call our office at (512) 985-6107. Alternatively, if you have any questions, please submit your inquiry using our convenient online form.