Practical resources to help family caregivers in the midst of caring for someone

Caregiver’s guide to COPD

What is COPD?

COPD stands for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. Let’s breakdown these words to give you a better understanding of the disease:

    • Chronic means long-term
    • Obstructive means to block or obstruct
  • Pulmonary means the lungs
  • Disease – this one is pretty straightforward

The Canadian Lung Association describes COPD as a lung disease that includes:

  • Chronic bronchitis: inflammation or swelling that occurs in the lungs which may include mucus production
  • Emphysema: damage to the small air sacs of the lungs

COPD is especially common in people who either smoked or currently smoke. The Canadian Lung Association describes the common symptoms of COPD on their COPD symptoms webpage.

How is COPD managed?

COPD is managed with a combination of medication(s) and lifestyle modifications such as quitting smoking. The person in your care should consult with a health care professional if they need help quitting smoking.

The person in your care may be prescribed inhaled medications, steroids, oxygen, and/or antibiotics if the person acquires a bacterial infection. Remember that all medications (including oxygen) should be taken as prescribed. For more information on the medications used to manage COPD, visit the Canadian Lung Association’s COPD medication webpage.

Keeping up with recommended vaccinations will help prevent the person in your care from contracting additional illnesses. The person in your care may experience more severe symptoms when they become ill with lung infections. These infections may also last for a longer period of time. For more information on managing COPD, please visit the Canadian Lung Association’s COPD flare-ups webpage.

It is important for the person you are caring for to follow the prescribed management plan.

  • Take each medication as prescribed,
  • Attend all scheduled medical appointments, and
  • Report to the nearest emergency department or call 9-1-1 if symptoms become worse.

Please note that this article is not intended to be a substitute for medical advice.



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