Caregiver’s Guide to COPD

Caregiver’s Guide to COPD

What is COPD?

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

COPD is especially common in people who either smoked or currently smoke.
  • Chronic means long-term (over 3 months)
  • Obstructive means to block or obstruct
  • Pulmonary means the lungs
  • Disease – this one is pretty straightforward

So there is a long-term blockage or obstruction in the lungs. This is exactly the case! COPD is often caused by chronic bronchitis and/or emphysema. What do these words mean?

  • Bronchitis (pronounced BRON-KY-TIS) is inflammation or swelling that occurs in the lungs, which may include mucus production.
  • Emphysema (pronounced EM-FI-ZEE-MA) is when there is damage to the small air sacs of the lungs.

COPD is especially common in people who either smoked or currently smoke. The combination of inflammation, mucus, and overall damage to the various structures causes narrowing of the passages through the lungs. This narrowing obstructs the ability to breathe in and out. Air may even become trapped in the lungs and unable to escape.

How is COPD managed?

COPD is managed by health care professionals with a combination of medication(s) and lifestyle. The following may be part of the management plan for the person in your care:

  • Inhaled medications (a.k.a. Puffers or Inhalers)
  • Steroids
    • Steroids are used to decrease swelling.
  • Oxygen
    • It is important to note that oxygen is a medication and should be used as prescribed.
  • Lifestyle
    • It is important for the person in your care to stop smoking or consult with their health care provider for help quitting smoking.
  • Antibiotics
    • Antibiotics are prescribed for bacterial infections. The person in your care may be more susceptible to infections such as pneumonia as a result of the COPD.
  • Vaccinations
    • 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 bacterial or viral infections. These infections may also last for a longer period of time.

It is important for the person in your care to follow the prescribed management plan. They should:

  • Take each medication as prescribed,
  • Attend all appointments with health care providers to monitor the status of their lung function, and
  • Report to the nearest emergency department or call 9-1-1 if their symptoms become worse.

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

At Elizz, we provide caregiver support for you and home care services for those who depend on you. Elizz is a Canadian company powered by Saint Elizabeth, a national not-for-profit health care organization that has been caring for Canadians since 1908.

 

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