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What are some tips for caregivers for people with end-stage COPD?

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As your loved one nears death from end-stage COPD, you may notice changes in their physical and mental health. They may sleep more, or talk less and less. Other changes may include:

Trouble eating. Breathlessness and other symptoms can make it hard to swallow. Serve smaller meals and snacks, and check that they’ve swallowed before offering another bite.

Your loved one may stop eating and drinking altogether in the days right before death. This is natural since the body doesn’t need the energy.

Soiling the bed. Muscles that control the bowel and bladder weaken. Your loved one may wet or soil themselves. Ask if they want to use an adult diaper or ask if a catheter can be inserted to drain urine.

Agitation. Semiconscious dying people can get confused and restless. They may cry out or even try to remove tubes and other medical devices. Medications like morphine may calm them down.

Bruising. As the body slows down, blood may pool and look like dark purple bruises.

Breathing changes. You may notice pauses between breaths or hear a noisy sound when your loved one breathes. This so-called “death rattle” happens if mucous or saliva builds in the back of the throat. The sound may be startling, but doctors don’t believe it causes discomfort.

SOURCES:

British Lung Foundation: “What Are the Physical Signs in the Last Weeks or Days?” “How Do I Care for a Loved One at the End of Life?”

American Lung Association: “Learn about COPD,” “Planning for the Future with COPD,” “Palliative Care and COPD.”

Samaritan Hospice and Palliative Care: “End-Stage COPD: What to Expect at the End of Life.”

Stanford School of Medicine: “Home Hospice: Home Care of the Dying Patient.”

Hospice UK: “Being with Someone When They Die.”

End of Life Washington: “The Symptoms of Dying.”

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini on July 30, 2020

SOURCES:

British Lung Foundation: “What Are the Physical Signs in the Last Weeks or Days?” “How Do I Care for a Loved One at the End of Life?”

American Lung Association: “Learn about COPD,” “Planning for the Future with COPD,” “Palliative Care and COPD.”

Samaritan Hospice and Palliative Care: “End-Stage COPD: What to Expect at the End of Life.”

Stanford School of Medicine: “Home Hospice: Home Care of the Dying Patient.”

Hospice UK: “Being with Someone When They Die.”

End of Life Washington: “The Symptoms of Dying.”

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini on July 30, 2020

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