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COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease)

What will the end really be like?

06/20/2008

Question:

You didn`t really answer the title question. My 88 y.o. father-in-law REALLY has end-stage COPD. He`s been on oxygen 24/7 for about a year, after years of undiagnosed shortness of breath. (Thank you Florida heathcare!) In the last six months he has experienced waning strength, appetite loss and has lost 60 pounds. He now has no energy for acitivities of daily living. Even speaking one sentence is difficult without taking multiple breaths. He spends almost all day in bed and in his chair, sleeps a lot, and has been admitted to hospice. He is terrified of an agonizing death....so what is the end like, in your experience?

Answer:

If hospice is involved, they are usually very good about alleviating distressing symptoms. Narcotics, like morphine are not only effective in decreasing pain, but they are also very good at decreasing shortness of breath. The end can be peaceful if the goal of therapy is minimizing symptoms. The hospice and medical team can be very important in avoiding an agonizing death. Your father-in-law and the family need to work closely with the health care team to ensure that distressing symptoms are aggressively treated.

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Response by:

Mahasti   Rittinger, RRT Mahasti Rittinger, RRT
Clinical Program Manager of Pulmonary, Allergy, Critical Care & Sleep
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University

Phillip T Diaz, MD Phillip T Diaz, MD
Professor of Pulmonary, Allergy, Critical Care & Sleep Medicine
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University