Living with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease at the end of life: a phenomenological study

Authors


K. Ek: e-mail: kristina.ek@hi.oru.se

Abstract

Title. Living with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease at the end of life: a phenomenological study

Aim.  This paper is a report of a study to describe the essential structure of the lived experience of living with severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) during the palliative phase of the disease.

Background.  Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is one of the most common diseases throughout the world. Shortness of breath, fatigue and cough are the most troublesome symptoms, and living with COPD often imposes limitations on daily living. The disease has a great impact on quality of life and affects the extent to which people can be active in daily life.

Methods.  We conducted qualitative interviews of eight people with COPD and collected data over a 2-month period in 2003. Our patients were recruited from two pulmonary disease clinics in West Sweden. We used a phenomenological methodology to analyse the interviews.

Findings.  Daily life for people with COPD is affected in several different ways. The patients described how their physical limitations forced them to refrain from meaningful activities in everyday life and led to social isolation. Everyday emotions vacillated between viewing life as meaningful and meaningless. A sense of involvement and the belief that life was meaningful gave the individual the energy and the desire to continue living and to envision a future.

Conclusion.  Nursing care should include support and facilitation, so that patients can live rather than exist to the end of their lives. It is important to learn from patients and tailor activities to their social, existential and physical priorities, where appropriate family-centred support may be most effective.

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