COPD in Seniors

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is the occurrence of chronic bronchitis or emphysema. This condition makes the bronchial tubes or airways of the lungs narrow over time, which does not let enough oxygen enter or leave the lungs. It is a progressive disease that will make it difficult to breathe. It is more commonly known by the abbreviation COPD. The symptoms include a chronic cough that produces mucus, wheezing, fatigue, shortness of breath, chest tightness, muscle weakness, and weight loss. Not everyone who has COPD has these symptoms, but if you experience any of these problems, you should make an appointment with your doctor or seek emergency attention.

Smoking cigarettes and breathing second hand smoke are the leading causes of COPD. Many people who have this disease smoke or have smoked previously. Long -term exposure to other substances – such as dust, air pollution, mold, or chemical fumes – may also contribute to this disease. It is the fourth leading cause of death in Canada, and a leading cause of disability.

Millions of people are diagnosed with COPD every year. Many more people have the disease and do not even know it. COPD progresses slowly, reducing the person’s lung capacity. Symptoms usually worsen over time and may limit your ability to do simple tasks. It is usually diagnosed in older adults or heavy smokers that smoke more than a pack a day. It is not an infectious disease; therefore, it is not passed from one person to another. It does not have a cure yet, and doctors do not know how to reverse the harm done to the lungs and airways. Treatments and lifestyle changes, however, can help you stay more active, feel better, have a better outlook on life, and slow the progression of the disease.

If your symptoms are mild, you probably will not notice them, or you may alter your lifestyle to make breathing easier. An example of this is walking up a stairwell, you may be out of breath and may experience chest tightness, but instead of worrying you just decide to take the elevator next time. Most seniors or people in general blame these early symptoms of COPD on getting older or being out of shape. For elderly people, it can be especially dangerous because they might suffer from other chronic health conditions and be more susceptible to other illnesses. They have a higher risk of developing bronchitis, bacterial pneumonia, and viral infections. Elders also have an increased chance of stroke because COPD causes more plaque formation in the carotid artery, which is a large artery in the neck that supplies blood to the brain. They are also twice as likely to develop atherosclerosis. It can lead to heart failure as well because the heart has to pump much harder to carry blood into the lungs.

COPD can cause sufferers to become housebound because of breathing difficulties; it can make it impossible for them to do basic tasks like cooking, getting dressed, walking, and cleaning. Seniors and sufferers as a whole often become depressed because of their loss of independence and lack of mobility without discomfort. They are less confident about their longevity than people who do not have the disease.

Elderly patients with severe COPD and depression may benefit from a group cognitive behavioral therapy, which will significantly reduce depressive symptoms. Medication and additional oxygen can relieve symptoms by reducing inflammation and ease breathing. Rehabilitation can help them learn correct breathing techniques and exercises to help their lungs and increase lung capacity. Additionally, every sufferer should get a yearly flu shot to help prevent respiratory infections. Even with treatment COPD can get worse, seniors should quit smoking and avoid being exposed to second hand smoke.

Although, those who stop smoking do not regain the lost lung function compare to the normal rate observed in non -smokers, it does slows the lost in lung function, as well as decrease symptoms and help live a longer life.

Losing the ability to travel, cook and clean and sometimes even dress by yourself is a frightening experience. You may be embarrassed about your condition or be afraid that you would not have someone to care for you if your symptoms worsened or if an emergency occurs. We at Carefect Homecare Services can assist people suffering from COPD.  Our clients will enjoy quality home care while maintaining their independence at their own home. They would avoid the hassle and stress of moving in with a loved one or into a long-term care facility. Our trained caregivers will help cook, clean, and provide emotional support for the clients, lessening the chance for depression and increasing the overall quality of their life.

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