Skip to main content
Hospice CompanyUtah Hospice

Hospice and COPD: When is a Cough More Than Just a Cough?

By March 29, 2022July 7th, 2023No Comments
Blog COPD v3

Living with COPD is filled with many ups and downs, as patient are forced to deal with unpredictable exacerbations. Understand how hospice for COPD helps bring control back into your life.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, or COPD, is an irreversible and progressive disease affecting the lungs. Patients with COPD experience chronic airflow limitations and breathing related problems. These limitations are due to chronic pulmonary inflammation, which causes a narrowing of airways and destruction of lung tissue. These changes inhibit the lung’s ability to expand and remain open when a person exhales.

The most common cause of COPD is smoking. It accounts for approximately 90% of all COPD risk factors. Other risk factors that have been identified include genetics, age, asthma, and other environmental exposures to particles.

Symptoms start gradually and often only appear after significant damage has taken place. When they do start, many patients try to modify their lifestyle to minimize the dyspnea (trouble breathing) and may even ignore the coughing and sputum production before going to their doctor’s office. 

The main symptoms of COPD include

  • Worsening dyspnea
  • Cough
  • Progressive exercise intolerance
  • Sputum production
  • Breathlessness 
  • Wheezing

As the disease progresses, symptoms begin to intensify. The end stage of COPD is often associated with severe breathlessness, very limited tolerance for activity and intractable coughing. These patients are usually oxygen dependent, experience unintended weight loss and rely on others for help with their daily activities. They see an increase in stress, anxiety, and depression, which often makes their dyspnea worse.

Hospice is underutilized for COPD

COPD is the 3rd highest disease related cause of death, accounting for 5.5% of all deaths in the US in 2019. Despite this fact, only about 30% of COPD patients utilize hospice services in end of life situations. 

One of the reasons for this is the unpredictability of COPD. Most patients experience a gradual decline with occasional exacerbations that are associated with a higher risk of dying. This makes it difficult to be able to determine a final timeline. As a result, patients with COPD experience worsening symptoms and quality of life similar to someone with advanced cancer, but it is spread out over a much longer period of time.

When Does a Person Qualify for Hospice?

There are questions to ask yourself to see if hospice might be appropriate. The University of Arizona Center on Aging put together a list of questions to ask yourself. They are

  • Do you experience persistent breathlessness despite being on optimal medical therapy?
  • Are you unable to leave the house despite adequate rehabilitation?
  • Have you seen an increase in how often you are being admitted to the hospital?
  • Are you seeing limited improvement in symptoms after being discharged from the hospital?
  • Have you experienced unintended weight loss?
  • Do you see an increase in fatigue and daytime tiredness?

Managing COPD with Active Hospice

If you answered yes to any of these questions, hospice care might be an appropriate option. At Active Hospice, we offer better quality, control, and comfort during life’s final journey. Our team consists of highly trained nurses, social workers, chaplains, massage therapists and more, all supervised by our medical director. We help transition you from a curative plan of care to one centered on your priorities and values, helping you and your loved ones attain a sense of closure and understanding.

Some of the benefits of managing your COPD with Active Hospice include:

  • Continued symptomatic treatment of dyspnea
  • Better nutritional support
  • Improved control of anxiety and depression
  • Prevent avoidable hospital admissions
  • Lessened patient and caregiver burden
  • Better advanced planning
  • Support and respite for caregivers

Why Choose Active Hospice?

Predicting a 6-month survival for patients with COPD is hard. It is very unreliable as the disease doesn’t progress along a linear path. It is filled with ups and downs. Exacerbations make it worse, often prompting the end of life discussion too late. Active Hospice allows you to take control of your disease course. We enable you and your loved ones to choose how and where you spend your precious time together. Give us a call today to schedule your free, in-home consultation and see how we can actively serve you through life’s final journey.

More questions? Leave your information here and a member of our staff will reach out to you shortly.