shortness of breath

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I not sure where to turn. Mom continually experience shortness of breath on a daily basis. Sometime it is really really bad to the point where she will froth at the mouth. Mom has had anxiety issues for years--but know that she has dementia it is hard to determine if anxiety has anything to do with it. I have a nice geriatric doctor who comes to the house-her suggestion is to have mom get breathing exercises. When thing get bad the only thing I can do is give her more Ativan. This is really stressful because mom will be begging for help, saying she's going to die. I've called the paramedics and mom has even been hospitalized a few times but they can't find anything anymore. Her blood Pressure is usually good--she has a history of hypertention. Along with dementia--mom has also had colon cancel (hasn't returned) Shes had a blood clot in the lung and neck and heart issues. With all this she is still relatively active, still walks around the house, able to go to the bathroom on her own. She still needs general help with bathing and daily living task. She eats on her own when the food is given to her. How do I deal with the shortness of breath issue--her doctor wants to cut back on the ativan but it seems like the only thing that works when she is having an episode--it's really scary and it's happening more and more. Any suggestions. Thank for any help.


A second medical opinion, perhaps, if only for your peace of mind? How old is your Mom, if I may ask?
Mom is 78 this year.
Thanks for answering. Is the shortness of breath occurring throughout the day, or is it just episodic, or only when something happens that may be upsetting or confusing to your Mom? While she has been hospitalized does the shortness of breath follow the same pattern, or is there any difference that you have observed? If there is no difference while she is hospitalized and under clinical observation, her medical service providers may be right that there is nothing else medically wrong, which may point to anxiety or fear. Still, a second opinion may help to ressure you, especially if the second opinion is rendered by a pulmonologist. Have you considered asking your Mom's doctor whether your Mom may benefit from nursing home care, perhaps? Skilled nursing home personnel are trained to handle just about everything, in particular symptoms that scare the rest of us caregivers. I would be scared too, if I had to face the escalation of the symptoms you have described. Keep asking questions of your Mom's geriatric doctor to force her to help you think through your options. Your post reminds me that as caregivers there are so many times we are stumped and simply powerless. Don't lose hope that you will find answers. Keep sharing.
Thanks you so much. Yes, I will definitely go to a pulmonologist--She has seen one long ago, however, since they worked through the blood clot issue I had not thought about it. A nursing home will never be an option if I can help it. The chances that mom will be mistreated would overwhelm my mind. Again thank you--this site is such a good resource for the caregiver--now I have a place to go to ask questions and see what others are going through.
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I would definitely get another doctor's opinion. A plumonologist is a good idea. Also, dementia often causes anxiety. It they can't keep her on Ativan, then Klonipn (Clonazapam) may help. Her anxiety must be addressed. It's hurting you, too. You denfinitely need more medical advice.
You are welcome, agingcare. We have something in common. My prayer is always that I never, ever have to place my Mom in a nursing home if I can help it. Key for us caregivers is that sometimes there is nowhere else to turn and we need to make that difficult choice, be it due to our own health decline, etc. If it ever comes down to that choice for me, then I will know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I have done my best and, as my Dad used to say, "angels can do no more" if that is the case. I have little trust in nursing homes based on their very public national track record. Good news is that there are some good staff and facilities out there in spite of all of the horror stories we have seen and heard.
Skilled nursing home care would not be my recommendationn either. If, in the future, you need help, seek out hospice (dementia/alzheimer's is a qualifying dx) or a place, like assisted living that is devoted to memory care, not just a wing, a whole facility. Check with the alzheimer's association as well. The alzheimer's association is familiar with all of the things that can come up for people and their loved ones that are suffering from memory loss diseases. This would include your issues regarding anxiety, shortness of breath, and many of the issues thtat our seniors often suffer from. In their work with seniors with alzheimer's, these people intrinsically suffer from the other issues common tot their age group.
In summary, first, call alzheimer's association- for referrals to providers with specialties that are appropriate as well as many other services including basic support. Second, ask your MD for a hospice referral and investigate your area's hospices, interview them and pick one. You will be amazed what they can offer you as well. Don't be afraid to ask for help when you need it, it will keep you sane and calm which will help your mom as well! You might attend a community event for the alzheimer's association and check out which area facilities and such are also there. The ones that choose to take the time to get involved are the ones to check out first. A website to check out right now is Jolene Brackey's enhanced moments site. In all my years of working with this population, I have never seen someone who has got it right! Jolene's attitude and approach is the way I have always believed it should be and it is wonderful that finally there is someone out there that is letting the world know as well. She is full -FULL!- of insights and ideas and experiences and you can share and ask her things as well. I trust her and she will lighten your load, and lift your heart! Good luck, let me know if I can help!
My Mom is 86 and has dementia. She gets short of breath some days from walking short distances in the house, watering plants, or bringing in cushions from deck. Some days she is fine. We have scheduled PT visits to strengthen her shoulder (torn rotator cuff/surgery/re-torn years ago) and hopefully for overall health - but she seems to get short of breath on these days without moving around and we believe she just doesn't want to go. My husband is at home with her during the day and I am home in the evenings. He hates to be the bad guy and tell her she has to go. This morning she was up and dressed (which she does on her own, as well as bathing etc) but when he told her she had PT she said she felt bad, was short of breath and went back to bed. I told the Geriontologist about the shortness of breath and he looking at the nurse and said "sounds like congestive heart failure" and then left the room. Her family physician reviews meds, does little to help with her constant pain and hasn't indicated any concern with her breathing. Sometimes I feel like because she is old they just don't want to do anything. I don't think she should have to be in pain all the time (from the torn rotator cuff and arthritis). Last week she didn't want to go to PT but wanted our Caregiver (lady from Church) to take her shopping! Are new situations potentially uncomfortable for her due to the dementia? She seems fine so often but has very little short term memory. Often is losing now old memories. She forgot she had a brother that died before he turned 20.
Your experience with a family doctor is one of the reasons I find them so limited. And if any doctor said symptoms seem to indicate CHF without addressing the condition and what he/she could recommend for it, I'd ditch him or her and find someone who's more responsive. CHF CAN be treated.

As to the respiratory issues (which could be exacerbated if she has CHF), bake her to see a pulmonary doctor. She'll be given breathing tests to determine lung capacity, probably have a chest x-ray, and determination made if there are problems on that level.

She may also have cardiac issues; there may be something in the house to which she's allergic, or she may benefit just from respiratory exercises such as using an incentive spirometer. Are there any pets in the house? Does she have allergies?

She could also have a food allergy that causes shortness of breath. And as I discovered and wrote about recently, one of the foods I love has caused shortness of breath. When researching it, I traced it to systemic pesticides used by farmers on that particular food.

But first step is to see a pulmonary doctor.
GreenJean, another thing occurred to me, and that's the air quality in the region. In SE Michigan, there's a lot of traffic and sometimes the auto exhaust affects not only the quality of the air but the actual smell. I keep my windows closed because of that.

In your area I think there would be less pollution, but there might be some from other factors. That could cause breathing difficulties as well. If I mow the lawn on a weekday, I always wear a mask.

Keep the conversation going (or start a new one)

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