Coughing. Difficulty breathing. Wheezing. If you are taking care of a family member with COPD, you are familiar with these symptoms. Your aim is to help the person live their highest possible quality of life, but it’s not easy. Though there is currently no cure available for COPD, it is treatable, and there are steps you can take as a family caregiver to help.
COPD Management Tips
There are several key aspects to living a healthier life with COPD:
Following a regular exercise routine will help a person with COPD build muscle strength and endurance, which can help them breathe easier. Upper body exercises are essential for better breathing and to make it easier to remain independent and perform daily activities. Lower body exercises, such as walking on a treadmill or climbing stairs, have also been found to help those with COPD. Physical activity can be broken up into small chunks. As little as a few minutes of activity several times per day is helpful. Remember to include breathing exercises, such as pursed lip breathing and diaphragmatic breathing, to enhance respiratory strength. Always check with the physician prior to starting or changing any exercise plan, but a good rule of thumb for breathing exercises includes five to ten minutes, three to four times each day.
Modify the home.
Take a walk through the person’s home, paying special attention first to ventilation and air quality. Windows should be open, if at all possible, to enhance ventilation, but closed when the quality of air outside is poor, or when conditions are dusty. Exhaust fans and air filtration systems can also help. Make sure the humidity level is balanced. The air shouldn’t be too dry or too humid, each of which could attract irritants. Next, be sure there aren’t any indoor pollutants, for example, fireplace or cigarette smoke, hair spray, and perfume. Eliminate clutter, which collects dust. The home should always be kept as clean as possible, using gentle cleaning products without strong scents or harsh chemicals, and changing bed linens regularly to eliminate dust mites.
Improve the diet.
A balanced and healthy diet provides someone with COPD with the extra calories and energy they need to prevent and recover from chest infections and to ease breathing. In particular, encourage a diet full of fresh vegetables and fruits, seeds, and nuts with limited processed foods and red meats. It is especially important to limit salt intake, as salt causes water retention that makes it harder to breathe. It’s also helpful to make sure the day starts with a breakfast that is packed with nutrients. This is because fatigue can prevent someone with COPD from getting enough calories, and often the person will have the most energy first thing in the morning. The person should, however, steer clear of that morning cup of coffee, as caffeine can react negatively to COPD medications and bring about feelings of nervousness or restlessness.
Bring in help.
- Transportation and accompaniment to medical appointments and outings
- Cheerful companionship to brighten each day
- Providing motivation to exercise, take walks together, etc.
- Light housekeeping and laundry
- Preparing nutritious meals
- And more