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 Shortness of Breath
Difficulty in breathing or “shortness of breath”, a very common symptom among our patients, is a frightening situation for both the patient and the caregiver.
Among the causes of shortness of breath are chest diseases, pain, anxiety, and end- stage disease process resulting in the filling of the chest with body fluid. Whatever the cause, this symptom can be controlled to a tolerable or complete degree.
Some management suggestions:
→ Elevate the patient’s head and upper body either with pillows or by elevating head of bed. This gives ease in breathing by reducing fluid/disease pressure to lung areas.
→ Administer medications as ordered. Sedation acts on the respiratory center in the brain which decreases the frequency and necessity to breathe, resulting in more effective respiration.
→ Initiate air motion of some sort that the patient can feel. This could include a ceiling fan, portable fan, air conditioner, or even hand fanning the patient. This air motion is better felt if the skin areas are dampened with a cool, wet cloth.
→ Portray a calm and reassuring behavior toward the patient. Although difficult breathing is very frightening for everyone, it is vitally important to help the patient to be calm. Increased anxiety results in increased adrenalin in the system which complicates the respiratory problem by narrowing the breathing passages. Keep calm and keep reassuring the patient that the breathing will get easier when the medicine takes effect. Stay with the patient until it does take effect.
Call Guardian Hospice if:
→ Shortness of breath get worse.
→ The above methods don’t help.
→ You hear bubbling or gurgling in the upper airways.
→ You need reassurance.

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