Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and Palliative Care

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a condition in which the airways in the lungs become damaged. This makes it hard for air to flow in and out. Symptoms can include shortness of breath, low oxygen in the blood, coughing, pain, weight loss and the risk of lung infections. People may also suffer from emotional effects such as depression, anxiety, insomnia and social isolation.

A pulmonologist (lung doctor) will help you with the medical treatment of your COPD. But the symptoms of the disease also need careful management. Managing the symptoms and stress of COPD can be very difficult. This is why palliative care can be an important part of your treatment.

COPD Symptoms and Treatment— How Palliative Care Can Help

Palliative care is specialized medical care focused on treating the symptoms and stress of serious illnesses like COPD.  Palliative care is available to you from the moment you are diagnosed and through the entire course of your illness. The goal of palliative care is to help you, and your family, achieve the best possible quality of life.

Palliative care is provided by a team of doctors, nurses and social workers who specialize in palliative care. The team gives you and your family an extra layer of support.

The palliative care team works in partnership with your pulmonologist and other specialists involved in your care. They will make sure that you and everyone else are “on the same page.” Navigating the health care system is often a challenge, but palliative care teams are experts at this.

Palliative care teams also help manage your shortness of breath by using medications that reduce the feeling of breathlessness. They can treat anxiety and depression with medications as well as talk therapy, massage and relaxation techniques. Having a chronic illness like COPD requires lifestyle changes. Palliative care specialists can help educate you on how to stay as healthy as possible during the course of the disease.

Palliative care teams are there to start and ease discussions between you and your family about your goals and what type of care is best for you.

How to Get Palliative Care

If you or a loved one needs palliative care, ask your doctor for a referral.

Finding a hospital with a palliative care team in your area is easy. Just go to the Palliative Care Provider Directory for a state-by-state list. To find out if palliative care is right for you, take our quiz.

To learn more about living with COPD and to access information for patients with COPD and their caregivers, visit the American Lung Association.