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At-home advice for COPD caregivers



"COPD is a progressive disease, and the best we can do is slow it down,” says Norman H. Edelman, MD, Vice President of Health Sciences at the State University of New York, Stony Brook, and Executive VP and Chief Medical Officer for the American Lung Association. That being the case, reducing smoke and other triggers in the home should be at the top of a caregiver’s must-do list.

Because smoke and fumes cause wheezing and flare-ups, doctors and pulmonary rehabilitation specialists recommend the following:


Ban tobacco smoke in and near the house. Also, avoid wood-burning fireplaces and incense. If you must heat with wood, keep a window open. And, when cooking, be sure to provide adequate ventilation.


Keep the home as dust free as possible. To keep dust mites down, Dr. Edelman advises eliminating draperies and carpeting and washing bedding weekly in hot water. For general cleaning, he recommends using a high-efficiency (HEPA or equivalent) vacuum when the COPD patient is out of the room because vacuuming stirs up dust. Although air cleaners are sometimes recommended, a recent report by the Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease indicates they don’t appear to provide health benefits.


Avoid products with strong chemical odors. Paints, cleaning products and insecticides, for example, can be serious irritants. When you must paint or spray for bugs, do so when the person with COPD is out of the home.


Limit the use of fragrant sprays and lotions. Hair sprays, perfumes, after-shave lotions and air fresheners can cause negative airway reactions.


Pay attention to air-quality announcements. When outdoor air quality is poor or dust levels are high, keep windows closed.

Use a humidifier. Dry air from your heating system can exacerbate symptoms. “A lot of people need humidification with their COPD,” says James Shamiyeh, MD, a pulmonologist and clinical assistant professor of medicine at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.


Display an artificial Christmas tree. Fragrances from live trees can be an irritant.


Centralize essentials. Keeping things most often needed in a central location minimizes the need for excess walking or stair-climbing.


Look for ways to enhance mobility. “Stairs can be a huge problem,” says Dr. Edelman. As home elevators become more compact and affordable, they can make it possible for someone to remain in a multi-story home. Also, a motorized wheelchair or scooter is useful when the disease is advanced and walking becomes difficult.


Also check out these sections of the COPD Caregiver Guide:


Eating Right with COPD

On the Road with COPD

At Work with COPD


Spouse with COPD and Depression

I am married to a wonderful man, who suffers from COPD and depression. We have been married for 22 years. It has been a hard road the last two years with dealing with his conditions. I love him so much, but he gets mad at me easily. I just stand beside him anyway. How do you make him understand it is not my fault he is sick? I myself have gone through bypas surgery for my heart condition 3 years ago. I enjoy life even more now. I feel guilty when I have to leave him to run errands because he is not able to go with me. He hasn't worked in at least 3 years. I try to do all I can for him, but it never seems to be enough. I am lost as to how to help him more than I have.

husband with copd

Ihave been married to a really sweet and wonderful husband for the past seven years. this is our second marriage. about seven years ago my husband found out that he had copd, caused by many years of smoking. Lately his mood swings have been hard to deal with and I am really trying hard to help him but its not easy. He seems to find fault with everything I do . I love my husband with all heart please help me help him.

Husband with COPD

Your post looks just like I would be writing.
I'm in the same boat. 2nd marriage for the both of us. 14 yrs strong till 3 months ago when he was diagnosed with COPD. We went to the Dr's for his mood swings and she took him off a certain type of inhaler. Seemed to be working, at least for a week. Tonight he had a couple of glasses of wine and went totally bezerk again. He was so angry. I know it's the compo of the two. Thank God he's asleep now!! He'll be better in the morning BUT, I was curious if you every got any help,advise from anyone her on this site? Can you offer me any advise?
" I love my husbandwith all my heart, please help me help him".

Set your boundries

My heart goes out to all of you but hang in there. Last year, my husband of 23 years had to have heart surgery. He has always been highly active and it tore him apart to require the help of his family. He has always been short tempered but never abusive. After a procedure prior to his heart surgery he threw some food and became beligerent because he could not sit up to feed himself. Lucky for me I had recently read a book by Allison Bottke, Setting Boundaries with Your Aging Parents. In reading this book I realized that regardless of how someone is feeling they have no right to speak to you in an abusive manner. I allowed for my husband to have his little temper tantrum and after he was done I explained to him I was not going to tolerate this type of behavior, If he believed his behavior was appropriate then he would need to start looking for another caregiver. This definitely opened the lines of communication and needless to say my 45 year old husband and I managed to get through his surgery and recovery all while I was still caregiving for my 86 year old mother. My situation was nipped immediately and had not escalated to the cases I read hear but I do suggest reading Bottke's book. She has a book which was supposed to come out last spring called Setting Boundries with Difficult People
My keys to caregiving are:
1.Pray to God, Listen to God, Trust in God , Pray some more
2.Never feel guilty to have a little fun on your own
3. Allow others to help even if they don't do things the way you do
Know the difference between helping and enabling
Helping - to do something for someone that they can not do for themselves
Enabling- Doing something for someone that they can do for themselves

Good Luck and know I'm praying for you.

Mother has Severe COPD

I am the primary caregiver for my mother. She has had COPD for approx 20 years (16 of those years she continued to smoke). Her COPD has progressed to the point where she has now been recently told she cannot fly (we were planning a trip south - we do every year - two days prior to leaving this year for our vacation, the respirologist said that she could not go). Needless to say she was heart-broken and very upset. I don't want to sound like I am needy or whiny, however, how do caregivers out there cope with the mood-swings that COPD sufferers display? I read a post above from a lady who stated that how does she get it through her spouse that this is not her fault; he did it to himself. On a daily basis makes me feel so guilty, and I don't know's almost as if everything is my fault. She was always one in life that never erred (or at least would never admit it), however now, it has gotten so bad.
Another thing is when she has an exacerbation and cannot breathe, she looks to me with these big eyes, as if she is begging me to help her, and I can't do anything.
I feel bad, but I love my mother, but this disease really tests your love for that person.
Does anybody else have any comments to share?

Just go with it...

Hi there,

I'm caring for my Mom, too. She's in the hospital right now, going on two weeks, for pneumonia. I don't know how long she's had COPD, but its been a long while.

About the guilt, I totally hear you. For you, your health and your family (future family?)'s health, you have to allow yourself to live without guilt. Its a catch 22, at the same time, allow yourself to be sad for the situation and the person you love... that is your humanity and empathy. Go and do things you need to (and you need to have fun sometimes) and allow yourself the thoughts that you wish that other person was there, but don't allow yourself to dwell on it.

For us, my Mom's exacerbation started a few weeks ago. I took our 1 yr old to a daycare to make a friend or two and he caught a cold. WE caught a cold, then my Mom caught the cold. I felt awful that we were the cause of her illness and the pneumonia that it turned into. But my (and her doctor) told me that we HAVE to socialize my son and people with COPD just get sick, its just life. She could get sick from going to Walmart.

To add insult to injury, we've planned moving from the gulf coast to Washington state for about a year now (we're moving her with us, too). We started packing and then she got sick. I'm continuing our plans to move, although I have one mother and one chance to do this right. Do I feel bad? YES. At the same time, life has to go on and if I sit and postpone our lives indefinitely, God forbid, I could get hit by a truck and die sooner than she does. We never know what life will bring us, but we have to keep living. Its ok to be sad and its ok to keep life moving in a positive direction even when those we love are stuck where they are.

I don't know if any of that helped, but I hope it did.

Blessings, Linda



I live with my dad as my parents are slipt up and i've just found out that my dad has COPD and not savvier asthma. I'm 14 and doing a lot of GCSE course work and placements. I love my dad but non of my family are willing to help me take care of him, my dad doesn't smoke but my grandad does and he spend every morning with him till at least 1pm. My grandad is not willing to stop smoking around my dad and I don't know how to solve it. I have a lot of homework all of the time and I can't get anyone to help my school does not understand the pressure I have to be passing my GCSE's and take care of my father and home at the same time. My dad does not slow me to get help from outsiders so I have a lot of pressure to do things to help him. The only thing is, is that he has also had a quadruple heart bypass, so he has a lot of medication to take an if I don't remind him to take it he doesn't. I have no social life as all I do when I go out with my friends is worry to see if my dads ok and then it upsets them. I've lost to many friends because of the pressure I'm under and they don't understand because I don't like telling people my problems but I have nobody to talk too.

I need help so any advice and that would be helpful

Emma Jane

hang it there

Hello, I have been dealing with my husbands COPD for over 5 years maybe more than that. We been married now 29 years but when he started to show signs of COPD we were married for 23 years. He fell and broke his ribs. He went to a doctor and they just gave hiim an inhaler which I thought it was odd. He started to sleep alot for about a year. He was always tired and getting out of breath. I finally took him to a specialist. She said he COPD and it was so bad he needed to be on oxygen all the time. He was declared disabled. the following 2 years were hell. Angry at me and the world. Nothing I did was good and I did everything wrong. Not to mention I now had the burden to save our home and get his medicines. I fell apart and depressed but I hung in and search for some outlet. I did not found many I guess I finally this one. His anger got abusive when I couldnt take his depression. I finally seen his sickness was his own little world and I was not part of it. I just did what I can to drag him out but its such a slow process but I love him so much I will always be here for him. Now he waits for me and I try to do things together. Our personal life is not same and I am dealing with that. Just take care of yourself and things will work out when you explain what you need to do and they will understand.

How to survive a spouse having COPD and other health issues.

I have been married for 33 years. Our marriage has always been rocky but "til death do I part". We survived the bad years and he used to be my best friend. Now he has COPD, and other physical issues. He has been home for more than a year and doesn't have insurance. He just started using an inhaler but still smokes and drinks beer. He is depressed and angry, I am depressed and angry. God helps me thru but sometimes I just want to run away. He wont go anywhere, he hates people coming over and I feel guilty leaving him alone. I try to manage all the bills, prescriptions and doctor visits have me buried in collections. Reading others experience's helps me feel that I am not alone in this. I did not expect the life we have, and we are only 54. God help us all.

both my parents have copd q

I care for both my parents alone I am 45 and have a full time job it is becoming to much for me to do alone my brothers have taken leave of this responsability .I guess I knew it was going to be hard but didn't really fully understand why they have mood swings and seem upset when I don't jump and get them something or do something right then and there .I've learned now that it stems from frustation that they can't do or go for them selves and that depression is very high umong copd suffers. I have to remind myself that they. Need tlc not a bossy over baring
Caregiver that feels cheated of a life out of caring for them and their needs

Jane call your local

Jane call your local hospital or nursing home they have a bunch of information and phone numbers for help . We all need help and its. Not a hand out its a hand up I'm 45 yrs old and it hard for me to addmit it at times is more than I can do alone but I am sure truly a lot better off :-) than I was being stuburn doing it all on my own with no help or lettng my parents contriol who could help becuz I was raised not to. Make those calls and baby girl find sometime to. Be a 14. Yr old gb. You and your family as for grandpa smoking tell him to go outside you the right to say what's best for your fathers welbeing.


my husband off 8 months has just been diagnosed with copd, he has been stopped smoking for 4 ears now, but recently before xmas to end January started again but not heavily due to stress at work, would this have triggered copd??
he became breathless and was admitted to hospital we told it lung infection, on inhalers and steroids, after 2 months still no better now consultant says copd, he has had xrays and mri scans, we live in Oman although Scottish, I don't know what to do next, I am angry sad, upset, and both my parents had copd and both deceased, I think and imagine all scenarios!!
please if someone can give me advise what to do next, he is 58, very healthy heart and we eat sensible, he just on inhalers
thank you