Karen McPhail, RN, MSN
COPD Care Considerations
I often do a fall or early winter blog on COPD and respiratory issues as so many will be facing temperature changes and other environmental challenges during the change of seasons.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a general, catch all, umbrella term for a variety of chronic, progressive lung diseases, which negatively impact airways, and restrict airflow, and oxygenation.
With COPD, airways within the lungs become chronically inflamed and begin to thicken. As a result, the tissue is damaged overtime and results in impaired oxygen exchange. Air flow in and out of the lungs decreases and leads to many challenges for those effected. As COPD progresses the individual experiences more and more air trapping in their lungs which makes breathing and especially exhaling progressively more difficult. COPD leads to a variety of issues including chronic fatigue and activity intolerance, difficulty in completing ADL's, wheezing, sleep disturbances, shortness of breath especially on exertion, chest tightness, malnutrition due to shortness of breath and difficulty eating, and chronic coughing. Lung damage due to COPD cannot be reversed and can only be managed and should be closely monitored and managed. COPD often times leads to other medical problems due to increasing demands placed on the heart / cardiac system and overall vasculature. High blood pressure and heart failure can result over time, so patients again need to be monitored and managed closely.
If you have a loved one with COPD remember to take note of the following considerations in terms of care:
1. Conserve energy! Be realistic with outings and space out activities on their terms! Do not allow them to become fatigued or over tired as this can lead to illness or trigger a serious issue and downward health spiral. If they feel tired take time to rest. Keep things on their terms; they need to pace themselves!
2. Be proactive! Avoid any potential triggers such as: extreme temperatures, high pollen or pollution days, smokers, individuals who are obviously ill, crowds especially during cold and flu season, even scented candles, room or aerosol sprays such as fabrese and lysol, or a fire on a cold day can all cause a flare up. They need to be aware of triggers and do their best to avoid them!
3. Help them to protect themselves! Encourage good hand washing as the best defense against infection. Hand sanitizers can also be used when unable to wash hands readily, but is scented can trigger issues. Always get a flu and pneumonia immunization as directed by your primary care physician or care manager!
4. Stay nourished and hydrated. Hydration is very important for COPD patients and they often become dehydrated quickly. Remember to keep hydrating beverages on hand and a glass nearby at all times as a reminder to drink throughout the day.
5. When having shortness of breath or fatigue go with easy to eat, high calorie, high protein, easily synthesized protein foods such as puddings, yogurt, eggs, fish, and protein drinks. Small frequent meals can often best. Make very bite count! Benecalorie can also be purchased online and can add additional calories and protein in a very small amount of tasteless liquid. It can be added to anything to bump up the nutrition, calories, and protein! Follow your physicians guidelines for diet at all times.
Reach out to a care manager if you require additional guidance at any time!