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Living With COPD? How to Navigate Palliative and Hospice Care

Living with COPD

(STATEPOINT) Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is also referred to as emphysema or chronic bronchitis and makes it hard to breathe. During every stage of the disease, starting when a person is first diagnosed, different supportive care options are available that can improve quality of life, including palliative and hospice care.

It’s important for families affected by COPD to have a plan in place regarding these care options. Having trusted tools and information can make getting the conversation started with healthcare providers easier.

That’s why the American Lung Association, in partnership with Embassy Health, has launched a new campaign to educate patients and families about the benefits and differences of palliative and hospice care.

Palliative Care

Palliative care provides specialized medical care for people living with a chronic or serious illness. Surprisingly to many patients, it’s appropriate at any stage of COPD. Early delivery of palliative care has the potential to reduce unnecessary hospital admissions and the use of health services. In fact, it’s never too soon after a COPD diagnosis to ask a healthcare provider about adding in palliative care.

The intent of palliative care for those living with COPD is to improve their condition, manage symptoms and address their wishes and treatment goals. These services are often provided by a team of palliative care specialist doctors and nurses, social workers, nutritionists, and spiritual advisers, and can take place in the home, a hospital, outpatient clinic, assisted living facility, nursing home, or palliative care center.

Hospice Care

When curative treatment options stop working, it’s often referred to as end-stage or advanced COPD. This can be an extremely difficult time for patients and families and a time when they need to make difficult decisions.

One treatment option for advanced COPD is hospice care. Hospice care focuses on bringing comfort and relief to a person with life-limiting COPD who has opted to no longer seek curative treatment. The goal is to consider the patient’s overall well-being and improve the quality of their life.

While many worry it’s too soon to start talking about hospice care, many patients discover that it comprises much more than end-of-life care.

When Carolynne, who has COPD, was hospitalized due to a severe exacerbation of the disease in November 2022, her healthcare team was especially concerned about her future and suggested hospice care. As she learned more, she began to understand that hospice encompasses supportive in-home care that could help prevent hospitalizations with another COPD flare-up. Carolynne’s hospice care includes assistance with showers and medication, weekly nurse check-ins, chaplain visits, and in-home healthcare so that she doesn’t have to travel to numerous medical appointments. This level of support has allowed her to focus her time and energy on her family and her favorite hobby, baking.

“I am living at home, and I can do as I please and hospice is helping me do it,” Carolynne says. “It’s just a different style of living; you are living with help.”

Hospice care is delivered by a multidisciplinary team that can consist of nurses, doctors, social workers, spiritual advisors, and trained volunteers. Everyone works together with the patient and their caregivers to provide medical, emotional, and spiritual support. An approach to care, not a place, hospice can be offered in the home, a care center, hospital, assisted living facility, or hospice center.

For more information about COPD care options, visit Lung.org/copd-plan.

For the 12.5 million people in the United States living with COPD and their families, having reliable information about supportive care options can mean fewer hospitalizations and a better quality of life. MSN

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