Tips for Living Your Best Life With End-Stage COPD

Despite the label, "end-stage," there is no reason to give up once you reach stage 4 of COPD, which is considered "very severe." On the contrary, there are still many things that can be done for you to help you live your best life possible.

As COPD progresses from stage to stage, the goals of care may change from active treatment and prevention to more palliative care. A hopeful outlook and proactive lifestyle can still do much to preserve a positive quality of life.

Relieving and Managing Your Symptoms

At this stage, your symptoms are fairly constant and they greatly interfere with living your life. Even the most basic activities, such as eating, going to the bathroom, bathing and dressing become more difficult.

So, treatment focuses on managing and reducing these symptoms as much as possible. Medications can include:

  • Short-acting bronchodilators, i.e., rescue inhalers
  • Long-acting bronchodilators
  • Inhaled steroids
  • Anti-inflammatory medicines
  • Opiates
  • Antibiotics
  • Sleeping pills
  • Anti-anxiety medications
  • Nebulizer treatments

Work closely with your doctor to find the medication regime that will provide the most comfort and the best relief for your symptoms of coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath and fatigue. It is often a combination of the above medicines that do the most for helping your breathe easier and live better.

Supplemental oxygen can also be very helpful in reducing anxiety and improving your symptoms.

Noninvasive positive pressure ventilation, such as wearing a CPAP mask at bedtime, can also help make sure that the right amount of oxygen is getting into your airways and body cells.

Quit Smoking

If you haven't quit smoking yet, you will still benefit from doing so, even at this late stage. Quitting now will not repair the damage already done, but it can help prevent further damage. It will also help prevent the frequency and severity of symptom flare-ups.

There are many aids and programs to help people quit smoking. Talk with your health care team to find the right approach for you. It's also smart to avoid secondhand smoke as much as you can.

Work Closely With Your Doctor

At this stage of COPD, you might begin to see your doctor more frequently in order to better manage your disease. Having a COPD Action Plan to guide you in responding to changes in your health care status may be something you want to consider.

Be open and honest with your doctor about how you are feeling and how you are responding to your COPD treatment plan. You might need to work through some adjustments in medication or oxygen therapy to get to the right approach for you.

Pulmonary rehabilitation can still be beneficial in end-stage COPD. The health care team involved with such approaches can help you and any caregivers learn more about what's going in your body at this stage, as well as find solutions that are right for you.

Shore Up Your Emotional Support

As you navigate your way through this final stage of COPD, having a strong support network can be essential. Not only may you need assistance with daily activities and household management, you are also likely going to need emotional support.

Emotional support is not only good for you mentally; it can also benefit you physically. Programs such as the following can help you with managing the stress, anxiety and frustration that often accompany this disease

  • Relaxation, and breathing therapies
  • Therapeutic massage
  • Support groups (which are even available online, if you're unable to easily leave home)
  • Spiritual support

At some point during stage 4 of COPD, end of life issues are going to need to be addressed. You'll need to decide how far you want to go with treatment and may want to develop a living will. Such as document can guide your health care team and caregivers in the event of an emergency where you are no longer able to express your desires.

You may also want to talk with your doctor about hospice. Hospice should not be brought in until you are truly ready to let go of aggressive treatment. However, you should also not wait so long that your condition has deteriorated to the point that the many supports they can offer are no longer suitable.

In Summary

End-stage COPD does not automatically mean that you are going to die soon. Many people can live in this stage for months or years with the right treatment. And they can still have a good quality of life during this time as well.

Also, new treatment approaches are being made available each year, so there is always hope for people even at this severe stage of COPD. Work closely with your doctor and rely on the support of your friends and family to live the best life you can, even with COPD.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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