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10 Things You Can Do To Help Someone With COPD

Learn How To Help Someone With COPD

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Updated November 07, 2012

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

After reading this article, you'll have a chance to share what you think your friends and family should know about COPD.

When someone is diagnosed with COPD, the only thing certain is that life is probably going to change. The disabling features of the disease affect every area of a patient's life, including the ability to work and enjoy social activities. If you're a friend, family member or caretaker of someone with COPD, recognizing the extent of the limitations imposed by the disease, and knowing what you can do to help, are invaluable tools to have in your COPD toolkit. Here's a list of 10 things you can do to help someone with COPD feel better, and to live a higher quality of life:

1. Help Them Quit Smoking

quitting smoking treatment for COPD
Photo © istockphoto.com, user Stepan Popov
Smoking cessation is the number one priority for someone with COPD, and one of the best ways to slow the progression of the disease. Here are a few tips to help your loved one quit:
  • If you smoke, don't smoke inside the house or anywhere near a person with COPD. Secondhand smoke causes further lung damage and contributes to worsening COPD. Furthermore, when someone is trying to quit smoking, nothing weakens her resolve to quit more than the smell of someone lighting up. If you must smoke, do so outdoors when no one else is around.
  • Remove contraband or anything associated with smoking from the view of the person trying to quit. This includes cigarettes, ashtrays and lighters.
  • Distract him with alternative, healthy activities when a craving arises. Try a board game, a massage or a walk to the park.
  • Keep candy dishes filled with healthy snacks to curb those annoying cravings.

2. Avoid Wearing Heavily-Scented Beauty Products

Perfume and COPD
Photo © of Getty Images, user Dougal Waters
Heavily-scented beauty products, like perfumes, hairsprays, lotions and after-shaves, give off offensive odors that can further irritate inflamed airways causing COPD symptoms to worsen when exposed to them. When in the presence of someone with COPD, it's better to go "au naturale".

3. Know What To Do During Breathing Emergencies

Shortenss of Breath and COPD
Photo © of Istockphoto.com
COPD exacerbation is the number one reason that people with COPD seek emergency treatment, and are admitted to the hospital. An exacerbation of COPD is often accompanied by worsening dyspnea and cough. Keep a list of emergency contact numbers by your phone, and try to prevent emergencies before they happen. You can do this by knowing:

4. Encourage Regular Exercise

Exercise and COPD
Photo © of Flickr.com
People with COPD will feel better—and stay stronger—with regular exercise. If COPD symptoms make it difficult to exercise, encourage an approach to exercise that includes starting slowly: 3 to 5 minutes at a time several times a day, working up to longer periods. Of course, the best encouragement you can provide for someone with COPD is to exercise right along with them.

5. Prepare Healthy Meals and Snacks

COPD diet
Photo © of Flickr.com
People with COPD need a healthy, well-balanced diet to maintain adequate energy to breathe and complete activities of daily living. Stock up on fresh fruits and vegetables, limit red meats and processed foods, choose alternate protein sources like nuts and seeds, and consider buying a juicer to juice-up healthy snacks. Getting back to the way our ancestors ate is the key to longevity and feeling good with COPD.

6. Promote Energy Conservation

Energy Conservation Techniques
Photo © of Getty Images, user Ryan McVay
COPD literally drains a person of vital energy, leaving very little for necessities like breathing and eating. Energy conservation is an important part of disease management that you can promote in a number of ways: organize items most used by your loved one to be in a downstairs area, arrange items on shelves to be at arms' length so your loved one doesn't have to reach for them, and place a shower chair inside the shower. Check out the following for more suggestions:

7. Allow the Running of a Fan or Air Conditioner

Fans and COPD
Photo © Getty Images, user Christopher Robbins
Some people with COPD find that a fan blowing directly on their faces, or an air conditioner running continuously, helps them breathe easier. If this is true for your loved one, try setting the thermostat at a comfortable, cool temperature for everyone in the house. If you find you're uncomfortable in a cooler environment, bundle up with extra blankets or a sweater while indoors.

8. Use Non-Toxic Cleaning Products

Green Cleaning
Photo © Getty Images, user Dana Hoff
Fumes from harsh chemicals can worsen COPD and exacerbate symptoms. Use only non-toxic cleaning products when cleaning your home, and don't forget to provide adequate ventilation.

9. Improve Your Indoor Air

Indoor Air Pollution and COPD
Photo © istockphoto.com
Did you know that indoor air is sometimes more polluted than outdoor air? Indoor air pollution can exacerbate symptoms and worsen the disease. Cleaning the quality of your indoor air will help keep the air you and your family breathes cleaner and healthier.

10. Help Spread COPD Awareness

COPD Awareness
Photo © NHLB Institute
COPD is the third leading cause of death in this country, behind only heart disease and cancer, yet it's amazing how little people know about it. It's also a disease surrounded by myth and stereotype that is fed by ignorance. Help increase awareness of COPD by spreading the word about its causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment and prevention. Here are some ways you can do your part:
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  4. Coping With Daily Life
  5. Living With COPD
  6. How to Help COPD

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