Learning that you or someone you love has Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) can be both shocking and frightening, especially if your loved one lives alone, or you do not live close by. Questions about how this can be managed without the need for aged care can be front of mind given COPD can have significant impacts on lifestyle. However, it is possible for people with COPD to live healthy and fulfilling lives at home, and symptoms can be managed to maintain and even improve overall quality of life with the right support and in-home care.
What is COPD?
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is an umbrella term for a group of lung conditions that cause obstruction of the airways, and commonly include things like chronic bronchitis, emphysema, and chronic asthma. While there is currently no known cure for COPD, there are many options people can do to improve their symptoms and therefore quality of life, such as engaging the support of in-home health care.
Is it common?
One in three Australians live with lung disease and the Lung Foundation Australia estimates that one in seven Australians over 40 years of age has COPD1. Other research suggests that the prevalence of COPD increases to 30% for people aged 75 years and over2.
What are the signs of lung disease?
Many people will be late to identify that they have COPD as symptoms can gradually creep up and appear mild at first, easily dismissible as just age related, or due to a lack of fitness. Things like an annoyingly persistent cough or becoming breathless when engaging in quick bursts of activity like running for a bus or even doing household chores, can be early signs of lung disease and are best not ignored. Like other chronic conditions, the sooner action can be taken to get the right diagnosis and start on a management plan, the better and easier it is to take control of the symptoms and slow down the progression of what can be a disabling condition.
How can I live well with COPD?
There is hope for people living with COPD to age at home safely and have a full, satisfying, and independent lifestyle. Engaging families and in-home care can support people to make necessary lifestyle changes, learn new ways of doing things and avoid aged care facilities or residential care for the elderly.
As the saying goes, proper planning prevents poor performance, and this also applies to living with COPD. A COPD action plan can be a great way to manage symptoms and collaborate with family and support services such as Home Care Assistance, to help ensure it is not only executed, but working well.
A COPD action plan is likely to involve the following key strategies:
- No smoking
Easier said than done if your body is addicted to nicotine, but quitting is the single most important thing a person can do when trying to manage COPD. Most people don’t want to smoke anymore, and we are living in times where there is so much more support available to manage cravings both physically, psychologically, and emotionally.
- Eat Well
Most people are surprised to learn that the food they eat may affect their breathing. Carrying excess weight can make it harder for your body to use oxygen efficiently, but also because both food and oxygen are your body’s energy sources, understanding the right mix of nutrients you need can help you breathe easier.
It can feel counterintuitive to exercise if you are finding breathing difficult, but the right type of exercise, at the right intensity will strengthen the lungs and increase your endurance. Exercise will not harm your lungs and when done correctly, will help you breathe easier and helps manage mood thanks to the happy hormones that it can produce and improve quality of sleep.
- Medications and inhalers
Inhalers are often the delivery method of choice for lung medications, but many people don’t know how to use them correctly and therefore don’t get the maximum benefit from the medication. In-home care support can ensure consistent and optimal usage of any medications prescribed for maximum efficacy.
- Oxygen therapy
Home oxygen therapy can be an option if the degree of COPD is causing oxygen levels to be too low, though it is not usually prescribed for breathlessness. Regular monitoring from your in-home care team can help to identify if this should be considered as part of your action plan and support you to get professional intervention.
- Prevention of competing lung diseases
Keeping up to date with vaccinations (flu, covid etc) and minimising risk of other respiratory diseases is also an important part of your action plan, and since the pandemic, our awareness of how to do this has increased dramatically and become more normalised for everyone.
- Get the right support
Perhaps the most crucial step in your action plan is the reminder that staying motivated and keeping up with your action plan strategies need not be a solitary pursuit. Use the support of loved ones, and an in-home care agency to share the burden and challenge that can come with making and maintaining lifestyle changes needed to live well with COPD.
In-home care can support you to avoid aged care and ensure you can maintain your independence while ageing in place with COPD. Home Care Assistance specialise in supporting people to integrate new healthy behaviours and skills while ageing in place to increase the chances of living well with the disease. If in-home care is new to you, then check out the My Aged Care website on the top of your COPD action plan, to ensure you get the in-home care services you need to live your best life with COPD.
2 Toelle et al. 2013
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As a leading age care provider, Home Care Assistance offers tailored in-home care services for older Australians, enabling them to live happier and healthier lives in the comfort of their own homes.
We offer private and government subsidised Care Packages and have office locations that are a registered NDIS provider. Our Care Workers undergo extensive training in order to deliver unmatched in-home aged care services where people can continue ageing in place. We are proud ambassadors of the My Aged Care government funded aged care program, enabling Australians to successfully navigate the process and gain approval for in-home care support packages. Home Care Assistance offers hourly care, specialised care, Alzheimer’s and Dementia care, hospital to home care, and 24 hour in home care.