Breathlessness and end of life care

Thursday 11th June 2020

Breathlessness is one of the common symptoms that people experience at the end of their lives. However, determining whether a patient is entering the last few days of their life requires the GP to consider a range of factors. Before making this decision it is important to consider how the patient has presented previously, if possible based on contact over a period of time.

GatewayC’s ‘Lung Cancer – End of Life Carecourse includes a full interview with Dr David Waterman, Consultant in Palliative Medicine, outlining the last stages of life.

Key points from this interview include:

  • How to decide if a patient is entering the last days of life
  • When to consider anticipatory drugs
  • Common end of life symptoms
  • How to control symptoms
  • How to manage end of life care

GPs must first: recognise that the patient is entering end of life and exclude treatable reversible causes. Anticipatory medication can be considered once GPs have assessed the five priorities of care.

Common symptoms at the end of life include:

  • Pain
  • Breathlessness
  • Sickness
  • Agitation
  • Upper airways secretions

 Find out more:

  • Access GatewayC’s ‘Lung Cancer – End of Life Care’ here
  • Read Macmillan’s guide on managing and treating breathlessness here

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