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Hospice Care and Trouble Breathing

Hospice Care and Trouble Breathing

Question

My husband was recently put on hospice. He already had a lot of trouble breathing; will this get worse as he gets sicker/closer to death? What can we do to help him?

Answer

Suzanne Walker CRNP, MSN, AOCN, Nurse Practitioner for Thoracic Malignancies at Penn Medicine responds:

The hospice team is usually very skilled at managing symptoms at the end of life. It is difficult to say whether or not your husband's breathing will worsen, but if that is the case there are options such as supplemental oxygen and medications such as opioids (i.e., morphine), which may be helpful. Use of antianxiety medications such as lorazepam may be useful, as may the cooling air from a fan. Other recommendations may be based on other etiologies of his shortness of breath (i.e., if he has a lung infection, an antibiotic may be used, if a lot of congestion then certain types of medications may be useful to help with that.

This question and answer was part of the OncoLink Brown Bag Chat Series. View the entire transcript from the Focus on Lung Cancer Webchat.