Millions of people suffer from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a serious lung condition that impairs breathing. If you have a family member who has been recently diagnosed with COPD, there are many things you can do to help improve your loved one's quality of life. The following guide provides you with useful tips on how to help someone cope with COPD.
Manage Indoor Air Quality
If your home has poor indoor air quality, you need to take action to protect your family members who have been diagnosed with COPD. Eliminating dust, fumes and pet dander from the air will protect them from COPD flare ups, lung infections and other respiratory problems.
- Purchase an air purifier that uses high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters. The device can remove harmful substances from the air. Unlike other types of filtration devices, HEPA air cleaners do not produce ozone, a gas that can irritate lungs.
- Do not allow anyone to smoke indoors. Second hand smoke can further damage already compromised lungs. Furthermore, smoking around concentrated oxygen is dangerous, as the chemical element is flammable.
- Check the weather reports daily for details on pollen count and air pollution levels. Keep your house windows closed on days with a high pollen count and a lot of air pollution.
- Use green cleaning products to avoid spraying chemicals into the air when you perform chores.
Invest in a Portable Oxygen Concentrator
It is common for those who suffer from COPD to use and oxygen concentrator in their home. These machines provide high concentrations of oxygen fed through tubes that connect to a mask or a nasal device. A typical home oxygen concentrator is about the size of a suitcase and operates via electricity.
However, if your family member wants to have an active life and perform activities like shopping, going out to dinner and attending church, your family should invest in a portable device.
A portable concentrator is small enough to fit in a medium size shoulder bag and runs via battery power. For those who receive Medicare, the cost of the portable device may be covered by the federal government.
Private insurance plans may also cover the cost of purchasing or renting a portable oxygen concentrator from a medical supply company. Accessories that should be purchased along with the portable device include a rolling carrying case and a battery charger.
Create a Travel Plan
If you are planning a family trip that requires air travel, there are certain tasks you need to complete before leaving town if you have a loved one with COPD.
Some airlines do not allow passengers with COPD to bring a portable oxygen concentrator on board. You should call the airline to confirm their policy on oxygen concentrators. Provide the airline with the name and model of the device.
Check to see that the manufacturer's label on the device states that the concentrator is approved for air travel. The Federal Aviation Administration also publishes a list of approved portable oxygen concentrators.
Make sure that your relative has a letter from their doctor approving usage of the device. The letter must indicate that the user of the concentrator is fit to operate the device or has a traveling companion that can perform the necessary functions.
If your family member cannot be disconnected from the device during the security screening line, inform the airline ahead of time so arrangements can be made with security personnel to conduct a patdown check. Airline security may also check the device for traces of explosives.
Be Prepared for Emergencies
In order to avoid a catastrophic situation, learn how to recognize the signs of worsening symptoms in someone with COPD, such as:
- A low grade fever that will not go away
- Swollen ankles
- Changes in the consistency and color of mucus
- Constant fatigue
- Reduced appetite
You should also create an action plan. The American Lung Association provides a free template online of an action plan that you and your relative can create with the help of a healthcare provider. The action plan outlines what to do when you notice specific symptoms and when urgent care is needed.