How to Ease Labored Breathing in End-Stage Dementia

Noisy breathing or taking many shallow breaths is common in end-stage dementia. Knowing that it's part of the natural process at this stage for some people doesn't make it any easier to hear, of course. But rest assured that it's usually not as painful for your loved one as it might seem to you.

Seven simple ways to ease labored breathing:

  • Loosen clothing to reduce any sense of constriction. Undo buttons near the neck, and make sure nothing is fitting tightly.

  • Try turning the person onto his or her side.

  • Support the head, neck, and back with pillows to add physical comfort.

  • Run a fan in the room.

  • Run a vaporizer or cool-mist humidifier to keep air moist.

  • Open a window, so long as cool air isn't blowing directly on your loved one. Cross-ventilation can be helpful.

  • Ask the doctor supervising care about oxygen, which is sometimes recommended as part of palliative care. Its intention isn't to prolong life but to help your loved one remain comfortable.

Paula Spencer Scott

Paula Spencer Scott is the author of Surviving Alzheimer's: Practical Tips and Soul-Saving Wisdom for Caregivers and much of the Alzheimer's and caregiving content on Caring. See full bio