THE COPD CAREGIVER: 101
At home, at work or on the road, knowing how to lend a helping hand makes a big difference
A progressive breathing disorder caused by chronic bronchitis and emphysema, COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) is the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S. Although COPD is irreversible, caregivers and patients should understand both the disease and how to manage it.
Early detection of COPD is vitally important. The symptoms—including chronic coughing often accompanied by a mucus discharge, as well as shortness of breath that worsens upon exertion—at first may be mild. As the disease progresses, however, the patient’s quality of life gradually diminishes and he or she may need supplemental oxygen. Over many years, those with COPD may experience shortness of breath even at rest; simply breathing requires more energy. As a result, COPD patients frequently experience weight loss and become weaker, usually because of associated heart ailments.
The longer COPD is present, the greater the likelihood one will experience COPD flare-ups—and the more likely they will be severe and life threatening. So those with COPD and their caregivers need to do all they can to keep symptoms under control.
Keys to doing so at home and work, as well as while traveling and eating, are our focus here. But, primarily, keep in mind the basic need to keep the person with COPD away from smoke, fumes, strong odors and allergens.
This guide will grow over the next few weeks, with added information about dealing with the medical team and oxygen use, among other topics. In the meantime, please check out the following: