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COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease)

What to Expect in End Stage COPD

07/30/2010

Question:

I have been taking care of my 77 year old mother who has had COPD for about 7 years. They told me 2 years ago she was in end stage. I moved her to Arizona with me 8 months ago. Changing Dr.s has been quite an ordeal. What she is currently experiencing is that she is getting much weaker. Says she feels so tired and no energy. sleeps alot. weezes at night. has been having panic/breathing attacks. I heard there is a drug you can give them in end stage when these attacks occur that has morphine in it that totally calms the attack down. it is scary for her to not get her breath and the anxiety feeds into this. my friend said his mom is on this drug and it has helped her so much with these attacks. Her dr. here in AZ said he doesn`t know what i`m talking about, but her old dr. in Indiana mentioned it, saying when she gets farther along it may be required. how will I know when she is very close to the end. i`m not putting her in hosp. or nursing home. what can i do here to make her more comfortable. how do i know when to take her in to dr. i feel she is close to the end but i don`t know what to look for. all i know, right now, is in the past 3 weeks, she is very weak, wobbles when she walks, gets confused, hears voices and my heart hurts for her. please let me know what to expect in the end. drs. here don`t tell me anything. i`m a person who wants to know up front whats going on. don`t sugar coat things for me. i`ve delt with death before taking care of dad with lung cancer. took care of uncle who got in accident at age 77 and was paralyzed from chest down. so i need to know. thank you so much for any input you can give me.

Answer:

Thank you for your inquiry. It is difficult to answer specific questions about the course of an individual's disease. I would urge you and your mother to meet with her doctors to speak about goals for her ongoing care and symptom management. Specifically, let them know you are particularly concerned regarding end of life planning. It may be helpful for you to suggest a referral to a Palliative Care specialist (or seek one out yourself), who may be able to anticipate and help you plan for the course of your mother's disease and more specifically manage her symptoms. 

I hope this is helpful to you. I wish you and your mother well.

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Response by:

Amy L Pope-Harman, MD Amy L Pope-Harman, MD
Clinical Associate Professor of Pulmonary, Allergy, Critical Care & Sleep
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University