Living with COPD
What is COPD?
In people who have COPD, lungs are damaged and the passages that carry air in and out of the lungs are partially blocked, making it hard to breathe. Most people who have COPD have a combination of the two conditions that form the disease. Chronic bronchitis is a long-term cough with mucus, which can further block the narrowed airways, and emphysema is the destruction of the lungs over time, making it more difficult for surface area there to exchange oxygen for carbon dioxide. Smoking is the leading cause of COPD, and the more the person smokes, the more likely they are to develop it. Other risk factors include exposure to certain chemical fumes in the workplace, heavy exposure to secondhand smoke and frequent use of cooking fire without ventilation. Dust and other air pollution may also play a role.
The signs and symptoms of COPD can vary, and most do not appear until significant damage has been done to the lungs because the disease develops over a long period of time. Most people are at least 40 years old by the time they start to notice symptoms. The majority of people with COPD will experience shortness of breath, wheezing, chest tightness and chronic coughing. If no action is taken to slow or stop it - whether by quitting smoking or beginning medical treatment - the disease gets progressively worse.
Although there is no cure for COPD, there are many things you can do to relieve symptoms and keep the disease from getting worse. Once diagnosed, a doctor will order the patient to stop smoking, because this is the best way to slow down lung damage. Inhalers may be prescribed to open the patient's airways, and inhaled steroids may be used to reduce lung inflammation. Anti-inflammatory medications are sometimes used, and in severe cases or symptom flare-ups, patients may need steroids by mouth or intravenously, oxygen therapy, bronchodilators through a nebulizer or assistance from a breathing machine. Doctors may also recommend that people with COPD start or maintain an exercise regimen that can help maintain muscle in the legs, which may require the use of a physical therapist who can teach the patient how to breathe correctly while walking and help them increase their distance.
Home Care Services for COPD
Interim HealthCare has extensive expertise in helping individuals and their families live with COPD. In addition to transitioning home after a hospital stay, Interim can also work with you, your physician and family to customize a program that:
- Provides medication reminders, assistance, administration and reconciliation, as well as oxygen therapy at home if necessary
- Teaches an individual how to recognize early changes in how they feel, and to take appropriate action to decrease episodes of serious illness
- Assists with physician follow up including transportation
- Helps with the daily activities of living such as bathing and dressing and ensuring the home is free of factors that may worsen the condition, such as very cold air, smoke or other air pollution.