Breathing time: Caring for someone with emphysema
Caring for someone with emphysema may or may not be necessary depending on the stage of the condition. People in whom this disease – which is part of a group of illnesses collectively known as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) – is detected early may be able to manage it in such a way that they do not need help. But if the emphysema has been allowed to become severe, then a caregiver just might have his or her work cut out for him or her. You see, unchecked emphysema progressively makes one shorter and shorter of breath. And as Paul Heyman says, “if he can’t breathe, he can’t fight.”
As a matter of fact, if you can’t breathe, there’s a whole lot of things that you can’t do, at least not without help, and that’s where a caregiver comes in.
Some of the things that a caregiver may have to help someone with emphysema with are:
- Getting dressed.
- Personal hygiene.
Additionally, the caregiver may have to remind the patient to do certain things that help manage the condition – mainly by preventing respiratory infections – such as:
- Proper hand-washing techniques.
- Brushing and flossing their teeth every day and washing their mouths with an antibacterial after each meal.
- Keeping breathing equipment clean.
- Keeping the household clean and dust-free.
- Getting vaccinated against flu every year.
- Taking their medication as prescribed.
And of course there are a few things that the caregiver may find himself needing to tell – not ask – the person with emphysema to do, for instance:
- Quitting smoking.
- Following a doctor-prescribed exercise regime.
The caregiver may even have to figuratively hold the patient by the hand and help them to steer clear from irritants other than cigarette smoke, including:
- Exhaust fumes.
- Strong perfumes.
- Cleaning products.
- Pet dander.
- Pollution in general.
There is at least one area however that the caregiver is solely in charge of, and that is oxygen therapy (if required). In such a case, the carer would be responsible for:
- Checking oxygen levels.
- Storing spare tanks.
- Replace tanks when necessary.
- One of the most desired traits for a person caring for someone with emphysema is the ability to plan ahead and prioritize:
- Determine the least strenuous way for the person with emphysema to do things.
- Rearrange the home to improve efficiency.
- Decide what should be done first and what can be put off temporarily or indefinitely.
- Schedule rest periods during the day.
- Consider getting the person a utility cart to help them around with chores.
By way of example, having the person exercise regularly would be a priority, and another priority would be to avoid situations that would expose the patient to cold air, which can make breathing even more difficulty by causing spasms of the bronchial passages.