Breathlessness - who can help?
Many people are available to help you and your family manage the problems that breathlessness can cause.
A clinical nurse specialist can give you practical advice and refer you to other members of the healthcare team to help you manage your breathlessness in the most effective way. Clinical nurse specialists can also help you find support groups in your area.
Physiotherapists can help you learn breathing techniques. They can offer expert advice on gentle exercise and relaxation, and show you new ways of carrying out day-to-day activities that may be causing you difficulty.
Occupational therapists can help you develop ways of completing tasks and activities at home that are safe and prevent you from getting too breathless. They may be able to give you simple but effective gadgets that can make everyday chores easier to manage. They can also offer expert advice on relaxation and how to pace your daily activities.
Dietitians can give practical advice on food that makes eating easier when you’re breathless. They can also look at your nutritional needs and prescribe supplement drinks if you struggle to eat enough solid food every day.
Different people can offer support in the community. District nurses work closely with GPs and, if needed, can make regular visits to patients and their families at home.
In many areas of the country there are also specialist nurses called palliative care nurses. They’re experienced in assessing and treating your symptoms, and they can offer you support from when you’re diagnosed with cancer. They can also visit you at home and support you and your family. Some palliative care nurses are linked to the local hospice. Your GP can usually arrange for you to be seen by a specialist nurse at home.
Palliative care nurses are sometimes referred to as Macmillan nurses. However, many Macmillan professionals are nurses who have specialist knowledge about a particular type of cancer. You may see them when you’re at a clinic or in hospital.
Marie Curie nurses help to care for people who are having treatment to control their symptoms and who want to stay in their own homes. They provide nursing care during the day and overnight. The district nurse usually decides whether to request a Marie Curie nurse.
The hospital social worker can give you information about social services and other benefits you may be able to claim. For example, you may be entitled to meals-on-wheels, a home helper or money to help with hospital transport fares. The social worker may also be able to help arrange childcare during and after treatment and, if necessary, help with the cost of childminders.