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Blog: Hospice Views

Palliative Care: Managing COPD as Temperatures Rise

copd summer palliative

Summer’s heat can be a challenge for anyone, but for those with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) the increased humidity can exacerbate symptoms and make it even harder to catch their breath. Palliative care can provide additional support to home COPD patients, preventing trips to the emergency room.

What COPD Patients Need to Know for Summer

It’s important for COPD patients to stay cool in the summer. When participating in activities, they should plan ahead and know where they can find places to rest and cool off.

“Fans are an important tool,” says Elizabeth Bennett, a nurse practitioner for Crossroads Hospice & Palliative Care. “Not only are they cooling, but the air on the patient’s face makes breathing easier.”

Patients receiving long-term steroids should also take extra precautions in the sun. “The steroids reduce inflammation in the lungs, but they can reduce protection for skin. The thinning skin can tear or burn easily,” explains Elizabeth.

How Palliative Care Can Help COPD Patients

Palliative care complements the care COPD patients receive from their pulmonologist and other physicians. The palliative care team includes a medical director, nurse and social worker who work together to provide support in the home, long-term care facility or hospital.

The palliative care team works with COPD patients and their doctors to coordinate care and access to resources and support within the community.

“The palliative care team is able to make frequent visits to COPD patients in their home or assisted living facilities,” says Elizabeth. “We assess lung sounds, check for dyspnea (shortness of breath) and can address emotional and spiritual concerns.”

A recent study in the International Journal of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease showed that palliative care for COPD patients decreases symptoms, improves quality of life and improves communication around end-of-life wishes — a conversation often put off until it’s too late.

When Should You Refer a COPD Patient to Palliative Care? 

“Physicians should consider a palliative care referral when their patient has an uptick in their symptoms: frequent hospitalizations, infections, more phone calls to the office,” Elizabeth recommends. “The palliative care team becomes a watchdog for physicians, making sure their patients have the support they need at home.”

Visit our website for more information on how palliative care supports COPD patients or call us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-563-3405.

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