Final observations

When acutely ill patients are admitted to a hospital, treatment is generally directed towards the main disease rather than its symptoms. Patients may be considerably distressed and may not obtain the relief they hope for to lessen their discomfort. Treatment given may even worsen symptomatology and is only justifiable if there is the possibility that the patient can return to an acceptable quality of life if he or she survives the acute episode.

The discomfort of a breathless patient in hospital can often be considerably eased by such basic care as arranging the pillows in such a way that the body is supported and thus ventilation is enhanced. Pain control is not necessarily the most difficult problem in treating breathlessness in terminally ill patients. As fear often plays a major role in augmenting distress in these patients, they may often feel considerable relief if they are encouraged to talk about this and other things that may be upsetting them.

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