Information and Support to Care For Your Aging Parent

COPD and Me: A Guide to Safely Aging in Place

Older couple looking happy while hugging. Cover for article about living with COPD.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, often referred to as COPD, describes several progressive respiratory diseases (such as emphysema and chronic bronchitis) that target the lungs, making it difficult to breathe. While COPD presents a unique set of challenges to older adults and their caregivers, it is essential to remember that millions of American families can successfully manage this diagnosis every year with the appropriate combination of treatment and modifications to their daily lives.

Life Changes with Compassion and Care

People living with COPD may experience both physical and cognitive challenges related to their diagnosis.  While COPD is mainly associated with shortness of breath, other medical complications may arise as a direct result of this, including but not limited to: lung infections, high blood pressure, heart disease, and even depression/anxiety.  Because of the frequency and severity of these complications, people living with COPD may need to make significant changes to their daily routines to manage their condition effectively.

Changes to Daily Routines

COPD symptoms can often make doing chores and completing other daily tasks challenging… Small, simple changes in a daily routine can significantly impact the quality of life for someone with COPD.

  • Incorporate a mixture of gentle 20–30-minute exercises into a loved one’s daily routine to help build their lung capacity back up.
  • Talk to an aging parent about using a walker or cane to help them get around.
  • Seek help to quit smoking and encourage their friends and family to do the same.
  • Assist a loved one in maintaining a healthy diet.

Changes to Physical Spaces

Older adults with COPD may struggle to move around their homes as they once did. Changes may be necessary to ensure a loved one can get around the house with ease.

  • If the home has stairs, consider investing in a stairlift or installing a wheelchair ramp to minimize physical activity.
  • Outfit bathrooms with safety rails and shower chairs to reduce the physical stress of washing and bathing. Ensure a loved one has access to a terry cloth robe after bathing to dry off with ease.
  • Give a loved one a SuperPole to help them sit and stand without physical assistance.
  • Vacuum and dust a loved one’s home frequently so they can breathe easier.

Changes to Chores and Hygiene

Parents with COPD may need extra assistance around their homes to manage their symptoms comfortably.

  • Consider moving commonly used items to countertops and tables at waist height to reduce potential stress on the body.
  • Have them use a cart to quickly and independently transport items around the home or garage.
  • Create a chore schedule with extra time built between each task to help a loved one slow down and take small breaks while cleaning.
  • Assist them in picking appropriate cleaning products free of fragrances and harsh chemicals that may worsen their COPD symptoms.

Adaptations for Supportive Care

Aging parents with COPD may need additional emotional support to manage how they are feeling about their symptoms.  Special considerations should be made to ensure they get the support they need to thrive independently.

  • Help build a network of social and emotional support by teaching their friends and family members about COPD.
  • Check local resources to see any COPD support groups locally to join.
  • Make sure a loved one schedules time for their hobbies to reduce stress; consider trying out a few yoga or meditation classes together or provide them with opportunities to engage in their preferred activities.

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