STATEPOINT — It can be scary when a loved one is diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). COPD affects more than 15 million Americans and is responsible for one death every 4 minutes nationwide, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, experts say that with a solid understanding of the disease, you’ll be equipped to help your loved one control symptoms and breathe better.
“Caregivers play an integral role in helping a patient manage COPD at home,” says Jennifer Sheets, president and chief executive officer of Interim HealthCare Inc., a network of home care, senior care, care coordination, home health, hospice and healthcare staffing services.
According to Sheets, here are a few key ways you can help those living with COPD:
• Support them in their effort to quit smoking.
• Dust and vacuum regularly, change HVAC filters and take other steps to improve air quality in their home.
• Eliminate COPD triggers from their environment. This includes the car and other spaces your loved one spends time.
• Ensure prescriptions are refilled and remind them to take their medication at scheduled times.
• Ensure they’re using their inhaler properly and assist with prescribed oxygen when needed.
• Prepare meals that comply with their prescribed diet.
• Participate in approved exercises and encourage them in all aspects of COPD self-care.
• Organize their home for easier access to frequently used items.
• Keep scheduled doctor appointments and document their condition for their physician, always reporting early signs of flare-ups.
• Lead them in breathing exercises when they’re anxious.
• Assist with daily tasks that deplete their energy and encourage them to rest.
Sheets also suggests that families consider professional home-based care, which can serve as an extension of the doctor’s office and keep individuals living healthfully and comfortably at home. She points out that for the majority of people, home is the preferred place for care: an Interim HealthCare survey found that 65% of Americans would have considered home healthcare as an alternative to a hospital stay in the past if they had known it was an option.
“A home healthcare team can educate your family on signs and symptoms of worsening COPD, when to notify the physician, and common triggers of COPD, along with how to manage them to reduce flare-ups and hospitalizations,” says Sheets. “Beyond helping you directly manage the condition, they can also assist with grooming, meals and housekeeping — all the daily tasks that make living with COPD a little easier.”
“While a COPD diagnosis can feel like a loss of control, there are steps you can take to manage your health and ensure a good quality of life,” says Sheets.