How to Care for Someone with COPD

A recent study identified the heavy burden caregivers can experience when caring for someone with Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). We’ve done some research for you to give you a background on what COPD is, how it impacts your loved one and some immediate steps you can take to ensure you’re providing the best care possible.

What is COPD?

To understand how to care for someone with COPD, you need to first understand what it is and what it does. According to the COPD Foundation, COPD is an umbrella term used to describe progressive lung diseases including emphysema, chronic bronchitis, refractory (non-reversible) asthma, and some forms of bronchiectasis. This disease is characterized by increasing breathlessness.

What are the signs and symptoms of COPD?

Assuming breathlessness or coughing are just a normal part of aging is a common mistake. In fact, these can be symptoms and early warning signs of COPD, which can take years to develop. Symptoms of COPD emerge in the later stages of the disease.

Someone with COPD will often display the following symptoms:

  • Shortness of breath, especially during physical activities
  • Wheezing
  • Chest tightness
  • Excess mucus in the lungs (frequent throat clearing)
  • A chronic cough that may produce mucus (sputum) that may be clear, white, yellow, or greenish
  • Blueness of the lips or fingernail beds (cyanosis)
  • Frequent respiratory infections
  • Lack of energy
  • Unintended weight loss (in later stages)
  • Swelling in ankles, feet, or legs

COPD Caregivers: What You Need to Know

Speak with your loved one’s physician and understand when you should consider a COPD episode an emergency and call 911 – this could save their life. Know the symptoms and be vigilant. In general, you should call the doctor when your loved one has:

  • Excessive trouble breathing during every day activities
  • Greater than usual coughing or coughing-related chest pain
  • Increased mucus production or change in appearance of mucus
  • Swelling in the hands or feet
  • Cramping of muscles
  • Tiredness or weakness
  • Trouble sleeping that is related to shortness of breath

COPD Caregiver Support Network

The COPD360social networking platform is a valuable tool for COPD caregivers. Members of the community have the opportunity to not only share information and support with other caregivers, but reach out to the respiratory experts on the site. Connect with the community here.

It is important that you talk to your doctor as soon as you notice any of the symptoms mentioned above or have any questions or concerns. Ask your doctor about taking a spirometry test, which is a common office test used to assess how well your lungs work by measuring how much air you inhale, how much you exhale, and how quickly you exhale.