Life Support Issues/mother


My mom has had copd Emphysema for a while now is 85 years old and still smokes and is not going to quit. She is not on oxygen but uses the nebulizer every 4 hours can not walk far with out complete exhaustion dressing just exhaust her to the point of having to rest. and is disoriented confused and has memory loss the doctor says has vascular dementia. she has a constant cough and darking under her nails of the skin. when I ask about her time he just states he doesnt know she has surprized him he did not think she would still be here i am just wondering what to expect this is a disease i have never known anyone with.


I am sorry about your mother. The link from the Alzheimer's association is below that provides information on vascular dementia. Because your mother has both COPD and vascular dementia her life will be shortened. Many patients refuse to stop smoking and there is really nothing anyone can do about that. In my experience with COPD patients will usually develop recurrent lung infections, grow weaker, lose weight and become short of breath.  If her COPD is severe enough she can develop respiratory failure as a result of infection. It would be important to know her wishes should that happen so you can communicate her wishes to the health providers.  Many patients with COPD qulaify for hospice care when they are short of breath at rest and have recurrent infections.

My experience with Vascular Dementia is that patients decline slowly.  They can show changes in personality and they also lose weight and lose function. The link below that describes late stage care of Alzheimers may be helpful. Patients normally lose weight and function and need to be cared for full time either at home or in a nursing home. At some point, they are no longer safe to stay alone as they may forget to turn off the stove and other dangerous things.

The indications that she is approaching the final phase of her life are weight loss, increasing weakness and shortness of breath with recurrent infections.  In the links I provided below, note that the Alzheimers association has a free helpline that you can call to get more information. It is wise of you to be planning ahead for your mother.

Life Support Issues

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Betsy Murphy


My expertise is in end of life care for adults. Identifying when someone is approaching the end of their life. Benefits and burdens of end of life treatments. Managing pain and other symptoms. Providing care for dying patients at home. Advocating for someone who is dying in a hospital or nursing home.


More than 28 years of experience in hospice care. Currently consulting with hospices to promote access for patients to receive hospice care earlier in the course of their illness. Betsy provides training for hospice marketing staff to effectively work with nursing facilities to help identify eligible patients. She writes Additional Development Request (ADR) letters to Medicare to help hospices get paid for their services and to avoid future claim denials.

Hospice and Palliative Nurses Association

Articles: Clinical Reviews, Advance for Nurses, Nursing Spectrum, Washington Business Woman,; Understanding Medical-Surgical Nursing (FA Davis and Company), Guide to Caregiving in the Final Months of Life (TM Brown publishers).

Bachelors of Science in Nursing, additionally trained as a Family Nurse Practitioner and certified as a hospice and palliative care nurse.

Awards and Honors
Outstanding Woman in Loudoun County (VA) by Loudoun County Commission on Women 1997 and 2002.

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