Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop: Helping Your Loved One with COPD Maintain Their Health

Posted on February 17, 2022   |   

This post was authored by Christina Hunt, BS, RRT.


There's nothing better than hearing your loved one with COPD say, "I feel good today." It's a relief that the care plan is going well and brings a possibility that tomorrow will be the same. The feeling that treatment is going well should spark confidence, hope, and encouragement. In a diagnosis that can be full of ups and downs, those living with COPD and caregivers appreciate these moments. But the question is, "What can caregivers do to help your loved one with COPD stick to their medical routine when they are feeling well?" In other words, how do we maintain the momentum of a treatment plan?

Recognize most medications are for "maintenance"

Sure there are quite a few inhaled medications that can be used to quickly relieve shortness of breath in people with COPD. However, many of the medicines prescribed are what we refer to as "maintenance" medications. These inhaled medicines are used to prevent and control symptoms. They can reduce the frequency and severity of exacerbations, enhance lung function, and improve exercise tolerance.1 I liken this to maintaining your vehicle. We don't just put gas in it to make it go and expect not to have any issues. We have to perform routine maintenance like changing the oil, replacing the brake pads, and rotating the tires to make sure it is in good condition to drive. Encourage your loved one to use their maintenance medicines as prescribed. If you aren't familiar with which medicines may be used for maintenance there is a list of medications available on our website. These medicines are typically scheduled for every 12 hours or once a day. Ask your loved one's doctor or pharmacist to be sure.

Use confidence to do the things you love

"Seizing the day" when your loved one with COPD is feeling good can be great for maintaining good mental health and building confidence. Whether it be a visit with friends they haven't seen in a while, a trip to a park on a beautiful day, or a drive through the countryside to enjoy the landscape… use those "good days" as a boost for mental health. People living with COPD have a higher risk of developing anxiety and depression.2 As a caregiver, encouraging your loved one with COPD to do the things they love when they are feeling their best will help them to maintain momentum with their treatment plan.

Use the extra energy to build strength and endurance

Being physically fit is a big part of anyone's wellness plan. For people living with COPD building strength and endurance can be difficult all the while managing their level of shortness of breath and oxygenation. If an emphasis isn't made on increasing physical activity, it can lead those diagnosed with COPD to feel weak which in turn can make it hard to do normal activities of daily living.3 "Good days" are a great opportunity for individuals with COPD to make extra strides in increasing their physical fitness. Encouraging your loved one with COPD to continue their exercise routine and perhaps "stretching" to do a bit more will pay off. They will have more strength to do the activities they love, fight possible infections, and maintain their quality of life.

Continue with healthy habits

If your loved one with COPD has been doing "all the right things" to maintain their health and is starting to have more “good days,” applaud those efforts. It may be easy for them to think that they aren't necessary anymore as long as their wellness continues, but maintaining a healthy lifestyle has a compounding effect. The longer that it is done, the more beneficial it will be.

Celebrate success and set more goals

When people with COPD have been faced with the everyday challenges of having the diagnosis and are having more "good days" that progress should be celebrated. Having these celebrations (no matter how big or small) recognizes the accomplishments and can be encouraging to those with COPD who need the push to move forward. After the celebration has passed, take the opportunity to sit down with your loved one with COPD to chat about new goals. Make sure when setting these goals that they are specific, measurable, and attainable. Having this discussion with your loved one with COPD will let them know that you are invested and willing to help them achieve the goals they have set.

As a caregiver or loved one to someone with COPD, assisting with building on the momentum of those "good days" can be an important task. Encourage, celebrate, and support their progress as they live with their diagnosis.

References:

  1. Terry PD, Dhand R. Inhalation Therapy for Stable COPD: 20 Years of GOLD Reports [published correction appears in Adv Ther. 2021 Sep;38(9):4986-4988]. Adv Ther. 2020;37(5):1812-1828. doi:10.1007/s12325-020-01289-y
  2. Pumar MI, Gray CR, Walsh JR, Yang IA, Rolls TA, Ward DL. Anxiety and depression-Important psychological comorbidities of COPD. J Thorac Dis. 2014;6(11):1615-1631. doi:10.3978/j.issn.2072-1439.2014.09.28
  3. Corhay JL, Dang DN, Van Cauwenberge H, Louis R. Pulmonary rehabilitation and COPD: providing patients a good environment for optimizing therapy. Int J Chron Obstruct Pulmon Dis. 2014;9:27-39. doi:10.2147/COPD.S52012

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