When a patient is told that they are in the COPD final stages, it is natural for them to become frightened and confused. People who are in the final stages of COPD require constant medical care and attention. This article will describe the symptoms of the final stages of this condition, the type of care that is needed, social and psychological issues that patients in this stage will have.
Symptoms of COPD Final Stages
1. Respiratory Difficulties
One of the major symptoms of the final stages of COPD is respiratory difficulties which are caused by a limitation of airflow to the lungs. This condition renders the patient incapable of engaging in physical activities as well as social ones. Exercise becomes a thing of the past because the lungs’ capacity to sufficiently supply the body with oxygen declines.
The patient at this stage will require frequent oxygen therapy. Most of the time, the patient will suffer from fatigue and exhaustion. Simple things such as leisure walks will be more of a task rather than a normal activity.
2. Decline in Lung Function
Patients that are in the COPD final stages will have a rise in carbon dioxide levels within the body due to a decline in the function of the lungs. Consequently, the body may develop a narcotic effect. As a result, the patient may lose consciousness or stop breathing. Acute exacerbations such as wheezing or coughing may result in the patient suffering from respiratory failure.
3. Difficulty Breathing
Bronchial infections can result from the patient having an increase in shortness of breath, sputum production and coughing. These symptoms do not decrease as the disease progresses. These symptoms can easily be managed through oxygen therapy while the disease is still in its early stages.
This way, the patients are able to breathe on their own but as the disease progresses they will experience difficulty breathing on their own.
4. Heart Conditions
During the COPD final stages, the patient may experience heart conditions which come about as a result of the heart working too hard. COPD usually increases the rate at which the heart functions. The walls of the heart thicken and the right ventricle enlarges; which results in the heart chamber being incapable to function properly.
Psychological and Social Issues Associated with Final Stages of COPD
Patients that are in the COPD final stages have a decreased input in their social roles and this may affect their relationships. Their reduced roles are due to the fact that they may suffer from fatigue most of the time and may not be able to perform their daily activities as well as they used to. This may cause the patients to suffer from psychological disorders such as depression or stress.
Another thing that may also affect the patient’s psychological well-being is the fact the patient is aware that they are in the final stages of their life. COPD has no known cure yet and it tends to worsen over time. A patient may have this knowledge and may consequently become emotionally unstable. They may also lose their will to live.
Patients that have COPD suffer from breathlessness and as a result the patients may suffer from panic attacks triggered by the fear of dying. The periods of breathlessness may be prolonged and the patient may suffer from respiratory failure. Most patients do not respond well to this and their quality of life may decline.
Some patients who are in the final stages of COPD might also withdraw and suffer from low esteem due to their perceived roll in their relationships and life in general. This comes as a result of feeling helpless and being a burden to the people who are taking care of them.
Steps on How to Care For and Provide Support to Patients during COPD Final Stages
Taking care of a patient in the COPD final stages requires that you keep contact with the doctor as well as the patient. The following are some of the basic steps that you can take to ensure that they are well taken care of:
Patients that have COPD will experience breathing difficulties as the disease progresses. The more it progresses the more they will have frequent breathing difficulties. This requires that an emergency plan be developed in the event that the patient suffers from breathing difficulties. The plan should include emergency phone numbers for their doctor, an ambulance as well as contact numbers for their family members. Even though some patients may request for a do-not-resuscitate order, they will opt for treatment.
It is important to get advice and listen to the patient’s doctor at this stage. Patients in the final stages of COPD will slip into depression and at times have emotional issues. The best way to deal with this is to allow the patient to talk freely and have a few relaxing moments. The last thing that a patient who knows they are in the final stages of their life wants is to feel that you pity their condition. The alternative is to offer them psychological support by showing empathy and compassion. Psychological support from family members and close friends will also be helpful. If not, then professional help would be a good option.
Ensure that the patient is comfortable by giving them their medication on time. This will help to control pain and symptoms related to the condition. They also have to be administered as per the doctor’s advice.
Respiratory medications as well as pain and breathing treatments are some of the treatments that can be given to the patient in order to ensure that the patient is comfortable. If there are any hospital appointments such as oxygen therapy, then the caregiver should ensure that they do not miss them
Attend to the needs and concerns of your patient. Even though it might sound bleak, it is important that you pre-plan funeral arrangements and settle any outstanding debts. This may sound like one is wishing for the patient to die already; but these are some of the issues that will have to be sorted out once the patient dies.