COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, refers to two lung diseases: emphysema and chronic bronchitis. In essence, a person’s breathing is severely compromised by an obstruction to airflow. Prevalent symptoms include an excessively wet cough, wheezing, shortness of breath, and tightness in the chest.
By 2030, the World Bank and World Health Organization forecasts that COPD will be the 3rd leading cause of death worldwide. COPD as an economic burden is a leading cause of disability-induced unemployment. That’s why there is a great value in how family caregivers assist with COPD management.
As a family caregiver, you are on the front line of reducing this burden. Even though there is no cure, COPD can be treated, and your caregiving is crucial to an effective treatment program. Exercise, diet, and environmental maintenance are all areas in which you can greatly help someone you love with COPD.
A balanced diet provides those with COPD with the extra calories and energy needed to overcome chest infections and to work through their more labored breathing. Planning and preparing meals and otherwise advising your loved one concerning which foods to include are important ways you can help.
Lethargy often prevents COPD patients from eating enough calories. Beginning the day with a bigger, more nutrient-dense meal when the person you love has the most energy to eat can be helpful. Following that with smaller meals throughout the day will not only help preserve calories, but also prevent the person from feeling too full, which can make it more difficult to breathe.
Though a morning coffee may once have been a necessity, unfortunately caffeine can react unfavorably to COPD medicines and cause restlessness or nervousness, bringing about aggravated symptoms. Additionally, help the senior try to avoid foods high in sodium, as water retention caused by sodium also makes for tougher breathing.
Routine physical activity is vital for effective COPD symptom management. As a general rule, it improves endurance and increases blood circulation, making for improved use of oxygen. Upper body exercises improve breathing and the ability to complete daily activities. Lower body exercises like climbing stairs and track or treadmill walking have also been shown to benefit those with COPD.
Breathing exercises, such as pursed lip breathing and diaphragmatic breathing, lead to stronger breathing muscles, increased oxygen, and overall easier breathing. An effective regimen involves sessions of five to ten minutes, three to four times a day.
Finally, it’s also advisable to think about environmental problems in the senior’s home, specifically as related to air quality. A good place to start is to keep the senior’s home correctly ventilated through open windows, exhaust fans, and filtration systems. However, windows should be kept closed during poor air quality days and dusty conditions, such as construction or building projects. Also, keeping a balanced humidity level prevents dry air from home heating systems and deters irritating pests that are attracted to more humid surroundings.
Avoiding or managing very cold air, cigarette and fireplace smoke, and other air pollutants are ways you can best serve a loved one with COPD, as does reducing the use of personal care products like hair sprays, perfumes, and lotions.
Keeping the home clean can go a long way towards reducing irritants in the house. Eliminate and properly store dust-collecting clutter. Weekly washing of bed linens decreases dust mites, as does keeping rugs and carpets vacuumed and floors clean. At the same time, reducing exposure to harsh home cleaning products and other chemicals, including air fresheners, is important.
Find more resources on how family caregivers assist with COPD management and help loved ones live the healthiest possible life, as well as how our in-home care providers can partner with you to ensure quality, seamless care. Call Harmony Home Health & Hospice, a leading caregiver in Provo and surrounding areas, any time at 877-463-3322 to learn more.