Hi Brenda... It's so hard to get news like that and yet be left mostly in the dark about what it means. However, being labeled as end-stage COPD does not necessarily mean death is just around the corner. People can go on to live with that label for months or even years. The body is highly adaptable, especially as related to breathing capabilities, and the human will also plays a part. So no one can say exactly how long a COPD patient has once he or she enters the "end stage." So you may want to go back to the hospice staff or doctor and ask for more specific answers about what they meant. It's always OK to ask questions!
My mom is dealing with some of these same issues. She sees herself going downhill daily, although she has not yet reached the hospice stage like your husband. She recently asked her doctor how she would know when the end was coming, and the doctor's answer was that she would be able to tell. Not much of an answer, but it did seem to calm my mom's fears.
However, I thought this was an important issue, so I wrote a post about it yesterday, which has not yet been published by the HealthCentral editors. Should be soon, though. Meanwhile, you may want to read an article Dr. David Kaufman did here back at the beginning of March:
Progression of Emphysema: How Do You Know It's Near the End?
That article will help you understand what's going on inside your husband's body and some of the signs to look for as he deteriorates.
I also found some descriptions from caregivers of the final days and hours with their loved ones before death which were helpful. It seemed that their loved ones became less and less mobile, remaining in bed more and more, eating and drinking less and struggling to breathe pretty much constantly. Most found that hospice was useful, especially in administering frequent morphine to control the air hunger, or gasping for breath, that was so common. Many saw their loved ones either lose consciousness or get foggier mentally in the final days/hours.
I hope some of that helps you. You have a tough road ahead of you. No matter how prepared you are, it's going to be hard to lose your mate of 43 years. So take care of yourself during this difficult time and don't be afraid to reach out to others for support.
My thoughts and prayers are with you... Kathi