I'm currently care-taking for my 84-year-old father who was diagnosed with end-stage emphysema/COPD two years ago. At the time he was a patient at Denver's National Jewish Hospital, one of the leading lung-related institutions in the US according to my research. We were told patients like he usually last two to four years. We're now in Albuquerque (altitude of 5,000-plus feet). I have some questions and would appreciate any input. My father won't allow me to sit in on his doctors' visits, I suspect, because my questions would be rooted in reality and he's not ready to get hit with that kind of news. The above diagnosis was given when he was hospitalized and I pulled his doctor aside, out of my dad's hearing.
Right now my dad's on five to six liters of oxygen 24/7. He nebulizes twice daily. He's insistent that his current doctors tell him the best thing he can do is move to a lower elevation. The staff at National Jewish told me (privately) that a move to a lower elevation would indeed help for a few months (maybe) until his lungs adjusted. I told my father I'd do my best to accommodate his needs, but I feel like, while it's important to provide the best quality of life for him during this difficult time, that my life has become diminished, that his takes priority and all others' are secondary. I've put my life on hold, stepping away from my teaching job and claiming unemployment. In this part of the country, finding the same type of teaching gig is an impossibility; however I have very real opportunities in New York and on the east coast. The drag, though, that while we'd be at sea level, my father's very adamant about moving to southern New Mexico.
He's also very anti-assisted-living-facility. So, for an 84-year-old man with this condition, would a move from 5,000-plus elevation to 3,000 feet improve his quality of life? He's on five-to-six liters of oxygen. He is very, very good at staying true to his pursed-lip, heavy exhaled breathing techniques. I've noticed his mental capabilities diminish but he's still quite sharp. I'm trying my best to help him out as best I can, but I'm in my early 40s, have cashed out my retirement early, and feel like if I continue to stay out of my profession I will no longer be viewed as a viable candidate. Additionally, while he has me to care after him, I have no one (at this point any way) who'll take care of me. That is, I'm single with no children. I feel like I've metaphorically painted myself into a corner, that I've put his well-being ahead of mine and that within my family (I have two older sisters), it's a general, unspoken consensus that I'm doing exactly what I'm supposed to be doing, that I can always figure things out after he passes.
After that long-winded opening, I'll just fire off my question already: How much longer does he have?!
I would think not too long. I am surprised he uses the nebulizer only twice daily. My guess is that he does not have a serious asthma problem.
I wonder if his doctors have given up on him when there might be means to improve his condition. I improved greatly when I started taking potassium iodide. I am so encouraged by this that will now try an anti-fungal regimen. If fungus is involved then some reversal is possible. My lung MD is very supportive.
My husband passed away 3 years ago with emphysema and a muscle disease. I took care of him by myself and quit my job to do so. I am also a nurse. I've read and found it to be true, that predicting end of life is difficult.
I did find that the closer to the end, respiritory distress episodes become more frequent and more severe.
He was on 2L of O2 24/7, but elevation is not an issue here. Generally, the higher the O2 intake, the more nitrogen is trapped in the lungs, making it more difficult to exhale.
Your father is qualified for hospice. His medicair and gap insurance may even pay for home health care, hence you could work at least part-time or whatever your energy/mental health will allow. I can empathsize with you on the trials and tribulations of care giving.
Please take care of yourself! I hope someone is helping you. Take care!
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