A CAREGIVER'S GUIDE TO WHAT MATTERS

Breath of Fresh Air

Breath of Fresh A

 

We hold our breath, catch a breath and draw a breath. We may mumble under our breath or even ask for breathing room. Sometimes, we can feel like we’re losing our breath while other occasions may find us waiting with baited breath. We may proclaim that we “won’t hold our breath” for an unlikely outcome.

 

Breath...Meditation uses breathing to achieve deep relaxation, as a means to achieve inner peace, and as a way to reduce stress and anxiety while improving health. Dr. Ferdinand Lamaze developed breathing techniques that have been assisting women during childbirth for more than fifty years. The presence of breath tells us that we are alive. There is a natural progression of altered breathing in a person who is dying. These changes are often more distressing to the surrounding family members than to the person experiencing them. During a person’s last few days, their breathing might be characterized by clusters of waxing and waning, followed by apnea (a temporary pause in breathing, which can last as long as thirty seconds. This indicates a decrease in circulation to the internal organs, but not necessarily discomfort felt by the individual. It can, however, lead to an inability to cough and clear the airway, creating rattling sounds of congestion that come from the chest. Mouth breathing serves as an amplifier from the lungs and congestion may sound very loud. Irregular breathing or panting may appear abnormally rapid or slow. Breathing patterns may seem to come and go and become generally unpredictable.

Assistance may be provided by elevating the person’s head. Also, turning them on their side may soften congestion. Sometimes, oxygen or medication to decrease the congestion or quiet rapid breathing may be recommended. Your physician can help assist if any distress is noted – and, in the same breath, your sitting by the bed while holding the person’s hand and speaking in a soft, soothing tone can be very comforting as well.

Sue Collins, R.N., Author
OK Now What? A Caregiver's Guide to What Matters