You might notice a change in breathing patterns or irregular breathing. The patient might experience apnea, when there is a pause of 10 to 30 seconds between breaths.
You might also notice oral secretions collecting in the back of the throat causing a noisy breathing. This noise, commonly known as the “death rattle,” happens when a person is too weak to swallow or cough effectively. It is common and manageable.
Changing the patient’s position might improve breathing, but do not become alarmed if it does not. A change in breathing pattern is normal and expected. When oral secretions build up, elevating the head of the bed with pillow or using a hospital bed might make breathing easier. Oxygen or a cool mist humidifier might help; however, suctioning usually does not.
Medications sometimes help with congestion and shortness of breath. These include concentrated liquids given under the tongue and/or patches applied to the skin. Injections and intravenous medications are rarely indicated. Your nurse will advise you and provide medication if needed.