Last Days and Hours: Breathing

In hospice palliative care there can be dramatic changes in breathing in the dying. These changes can be unsettling for family and caregivers.

Learn about these changes and how to determine if the patient is in distress and how to talk with family about the meaning of the change.


  • 0’23” Normal changes in breathing as individuals decline – “ataxic breathing.”
  • 0’54” Cheyne Stokes breathing.
  • 2’08” Letting family know about changes in breathing and what to look for.
  • 2’50” If they look comfortable, they probably are comfortable.
  • 4’00” Report when individuals seem to be struggling for breath.
  • 4’30” Moist respiratory breathing – causes.
  • 5’30” Fluids that collect in the airway.
  • 6’30” Helping children to understand breathing sounds.
  • 9’00” How to help with mouth breathing.
  • 10’50” Effects of positioning.

Last Days and Hours, Essentials in Hospice Palliative Care, 2nd Edition, Katherine Murray, 2009.

Study Guide for Nurses, Essentials in Hospice Palliative Care Workbook, 2009.

Written and preformed by Kath Murray and Elizabeth Causton, All Rights Reserved, Life and Death Matters, 2010.