July 20 2015
Written By
Barbara Karnes, RN
Back To Blog

Oxygen, Morphine and Air Hunger

Oxygen, Morphine and Air Hunger


Barbara - June 05 2019

Hi Mary, the research on oxygen prolonging life as death approaches is unresolved. Some say yes, some say no.
I, personally, consider oxygen a comfort measure and do not believe it extends life. If it eases the difficulty of breathing then we want to do that particularly if we are talking months to live (which from the description of your mother she does). In the days to hours before death it really doesn’t have much of a benefit even for comfort.
Hope this helps make your decision. Blessings to you and your mother. Barbara

Mary Griffin - June 05 2019

95 year old mother. advanced dementia, otherwise very healthy.
Expressed wishes not to prolong life, DNR, has experienced a full life, ready to go.
Hospice recommended nasal oxygen therapy because low stats.
Only medicine currently prescribed is risperidone.
Is the oxygen prolonging life?

Barbara - September 20 2018

Hi Lori, to answer your question I do not think oxygen is prolonging your mother’s life. I agree with your hospice nurse oxygen is a comfort measure. Blessings to you and your family. Barbara

LORI A PAAPE - September 20 2018

Hello my Mom is 82 and has Alzheimer’s, she has been going down hill for the last month I am her POA and she has a active DNR we have Hospice working with us and I would like to know as her POA knowing that she wanted nothing to keep her alive , is the oxygen prolonging her life or not hospice says it’s only for comfort I am second guessing it all the time.

Barbara - August 21 2018

Hi Jennifer, I do not have enough medical information about your grandmother to know about the cause of her “trouble breathing”. I would suggest you call her doctor and ask your questions. Ask “Why is she having trouble breathing and what can we do about it”. Is she on hospice? If not also ask if she is appropriate for hospice care. With a hospice referral you will have some support and guidance as you care for your grandmother. Blessings! Barbara

Jennifer - August 21 2018

My grandmother said she is having trouble breathing. Ismorphine for that. We had to give it to her twice.

Cyoa - June 05 2018

Thank you for writing this.

Martha - April 19 2018

You have given a beautiful and compassionate explanation of part of the dying process. What comfort this brings to many. Thank you very much.

Barbara Karnes - March 02 2018

Hi Diana, hospices often differ in their use of oxygen and morphine. There are federal guidelines to follow but there is a bit of interpretive leeway when we address “comfort measures.” The bigger issue here is will her physician sign the hospice paper stating a six month prognosis.
I have no problem trying oxygen although am not sure it will actually help. Her body is wearing out. I know you want to keep her as comfortable as possible but SOB on activity may not be something you can fix for her. A little bit of morphine for the SOB, it may help or not. Can’t hurt to try and see.
Thank you for reaching out to me. I will keep you and your aunt in my thoughts. Blessings! Barbara

Diana Jaycox - March 02 2018

I have an 90 year old aunt I am caring for who has CHFand ERSD as part of her chronic complications of Type 2 DM. She has opted to not have dialysis and to seek only comfort care. However, she is bothered by severe SOB with any exertion. Her O2 sats remain above 94% and she does not meet Medicare guidelines for O2 use. I am trying to help her deal with the frustration of taking longer to do simple tasks due to need for energy conservation. As a RN I understand her SOB is related to her chronic anemia and fluid overload. I understand that oxygen may not really help. My question is if she was a hospice patient, could I get her oxygen as a comfort measure as well,, as anxiety and morphine for comfort, as her current MD States she does not meet Medicare guidelines for these now.

Leave a comment

Comments have to be approved before showing up