Living with COPD and Preventing Accidents

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Dear COPD Coach,
My mother has COPD and lives alone. I want to do what I can to help her. Do you have any suggestions on how to make her home safer to prevent accidents while I’m away?

–Accident-free

Dear Accident-free,

I can certainly understand your concern about your mother living alone. Here are a few ideas that might ease your concerns:

  • Consider purchasing an emergency medical alert system for your Mom. This would include a pendant she could wear to summon help if it would become necessary.
  • Organize her medications, listed by day and time so you and she can track use.
  • If she is on oxygen, keep an emergency cylinder accessible and instruct her on its use. Make sure her oxygen hoses are long enough for her to be able to get to areas of the house she needs to use.
  • Make sure phones are located in convenient locations.
  • Install safety bars in the bathroom, specifically by the tub and toilet, and slip proof rugs and bathmats. Also consider getting a tug and shower chair.
  • Purchase shower brushes to aid in bathing.
  • Bathing can sometimes cause breathlessness; purchase a terrycloth robe she can wear until she feels up to dressing.
  • Set regular times during the day to call and check on her.
  • Keep a list of important numbers by the phone should an emergency arise.
  • Keep a list of all medications she is taking and the dosages.
  • Try and keep ready-made or frozen meals available for times she doesn’t feel like cooking.
  • Become educated about COPD. Learn to spot an exacerbation before it becomes severe.

Another thing you might consider would be utilizing a smart speaker/home assistant. These devices can by synced to a phone contact list and can be used to make phone calls in case your mom can’t reach a phone, or if the emergency alert button is not an option for your situation. These devices can also be used to set reminders for medications and treatments. Utilizing technology can be a real benefit when trying to keep people independent and in their own homes.

Being a caregiver can be a difficult but rewarding task. The more you learn about COPD, the more proactive you will become in your mother’s care.

Best regards,
-The COPD Coach

Coaches Corner is aimed at providing information for individuals with COPD to take to your doctor, and is not in any way intended to be medical advice. If you would like to submit a question to the Coaches Corner email us at coachescorner@copdfoundation.org. We would love to hear your questions and comments. You can address your emails to The COPD Coach.


This article was reviewed by Senior Director of Community Engagement and COPD360social Community Manager, Bill Clark, as well as certified staff Respiratory Therapists on February 4, 2020.


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  • Consider asking her about enrolling in an exercise class designed for older adults that focuses on balance to minimize the risk of falls. Also, tour her home with an eye to trip and fall hazards and reduce/elminate them, including loose area rugs, too much furniture & clutter, nightlights to illuminate the path the the bathroom, etc. Falls are a serious health problem, especially as folks age and their eyesight and coordination isn't as good as it used to be.
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