COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) makes it hard to breathe. As a result, it touches all aspects of daily life: eating, bathing, housework, and socializing. Not being able to breathe is very frightening for the patient and for those who love them. People with COPD frequently end up in the Emergency Room.
There are things you can do in daily life that will go a long way toward preventing such crises. Your loved one may need help with this. But better breathing and avoiding the ER are worth it!
Know the signs of a problem brewing
Create an action plan. Ask the doctor about the signs that a flare may be starting. Find out what you should do if one of these events occurs. The best way to keep life on an even keel is to nip a flare in the bud.
COPD is a combination of emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Together they damage the structure of the lungs, making it difficult to take in much oxygen. This results in fatigue, “air hunger,” anxiety, and frequent infections. Other symptoms include pain, coughing, and trouble sleeping. People with COPD frequently become isolated and depressed. So do their family caregivers.
COPD is known for flare-ups that rather suddenly make breathing much more difficult. Often the patient needs to go to the Emergency Room. Every flare-up is stressful. It also has the potential to make the disease get worse at a faster rate.
Tips for daily life
Here’s what you can do on a daily basis to ease breathing and reduce the chance of a flare:
Open a window
Fresh air is refreshing! If weather permits and the air is clear (no smog or smoke, low pollen count), this can be a natural way to promote easy breathing.
Run a fan
If your loved one enjoys it, you can even point the fan to blow air directly toward his or her face.
Add moisture to the room
Hot air and a dry throat can make it harder to breathe. A simple humidifier adds moisture and soothes the airways.
Raise the head of the bed with pillows
Lying flat makes breathing more difficult. Lying more upright relieves pressure on the chest. It also reduces the tendency to cough.
Lie on one side to sleep
Some positions are more comfortable than others. For sleeping, try lying on the side with the head slightly elevated. Experiment to find out which position feels best for your loved one.
Make changes around the house:
If your loved one has breathing problems, he or she should not be smoking at all. Smoke from the cigarettes of others also clogs the air and makes it harder for your relative’s lungs to do their job.
Eliminate or reduce strong smells
Perfumes, bleach, household cleaners, and paint fumes all represent chemical particles in the air. These can “catch at the back of the throat” and make it harder to breathe.
Remove dust and replace air filters
A thorough dusting will remove this common irritant. (Best to do this on a day when your relative can be out of the house!) Replacing furnace and air conditioning filters will also reduce particles in the air.
Avoid colds or respiratory infections These lung illnesses can spark a flare.
Stay current on vaccinations Make sure your relative keeps up with flu and pneumonia vaccines.
Avoid crowds During flu season, your loved one should avoid public places. Ask friends to be mindful of their own health before visiting.
Wash hands frequently Fingers and hands collect bacteria from everything! Have your relative avoid touching his or her eyes, mouth, and nose. Bring a personal pen for use in stores, at the doctor’s, etc. Carry hand sanitizer or wipes.
See the dentist regularly Good dental hygiene helps protect against infection.
Promote overall health
Sleep Getting adequate sleep is important for a person with COPD. So is adequate rest. Pace activities and make time for naps in the day.
There is a fine line between too much exercise and not enough. Walking is recommended. But talk with the doctor first. Special lung-friendly activities have been designed for persons with COPD. There may even be a “Better Breathers Club” nearby where your relative can meet and work with others who also have COPD.
Ask your health care provider about
Depending on your loved one’s condition, simple exercises can expand the lungs. Something as simple as singing favorite songs might help. It doesn’t feel like exercise, yet it naturally (and joyfully!) encourages deeper inhales and stronger exhales.
Providing your loved one with more-concentrated oxygen is another way to address air hunger. There are significant lifestyle changes that come with using oxygen. There can be no smoking in the house. (Oxygen is extremely flammable!) And your loved one will need to have a cannula (plastic tube) across the face under the nose. It also requires keeping an oxygen tank nearby. (They often come with little carts or small canisters that can be carried in a large handbag or backpack.) For all that, oxygen therapy can be extremely effective in providing adequate air.
Depending on the type of breathing problem, there are medicines and inhalers that can help. Ask about prescriptions that would be most effective for your relative’s situation.
daily weight checks
In the advanced stages of the disease, fluid may build up in the body. This can be a sign that a flare is brewing. Weigh your relative once a day, in the morning, after urinating and before eating. In general, a weight gain of two to three pounds from one day to the next means that fluid is starting to build up. Work with the health care provider to determine how much weight means a problem and what you should do to nip a flare in the bud.
Create an Action Plan
Develop a personalized action plan with your relative’s health care provider. The office may even have classes or nurse educators to help. Think of the plan in terms of
Green light: everything is within normal limits.
Yellow light: caution, need to make some changes at home.
Red light: go to the hospital.
Ask about the range of normal for each of the symptoms below (green light). What prompts a yellow light response (changes at home)? When do you need to go to the hospital (red light)?
Feeling more breathless than usual
More coughing, with thicker phlegm or mucus
Needing to use a quick-relief “rescue” inhaler or nebulizer more often
Weight gain of three pounds or more in a day’s time. This may be the result of fluid build-up. Check for increased swelling around the ankles
Inability to sleep well because of breathing or coughing difficulties
Lack of appetite
The doctor may suggest
special breathing exercises
Have these on hand and ready for use at the yellow light level. Call the doctor immediately if these treatments don’t help and the condition seems to be getting worse.
What are the “yellow light” events for your loved one? What can you do to stop a flare?
Constant coughing and fatigue can be wearing. Add to it a persistent hunger for air and your loved one may develop a great deal of anxiety about breathing. Each breath becomes a worry. Reducing that anxiety can do a lot to improve your relative’s quality of life.
When people get anxious, they take shallower breaths and breathe more quickly. This can actually make things worse. Shallow breathing does not clear the air sacs of the lungs, so there is less room to bring in fresh oxygen. Taking slow, very measured breaths is not only calming, it also helps solve the problem of lack of oxygen. Have your loved sit upright and then take one inhale slowly for a count of 4. Then try for a sustained exhale over a count of 4. Start again. Continue.
Engage in conversation about topics that have been of interest in the past. Keeping the mind focused on other things can help your relative weather a short spell of anxiety.
Guided imagery Visualizations can help ease the mind and reduce anxiety. With closed eyes, your loved one imagines a place that is cool and peaceful. Perhaps the beach or a brook in the mountains. Try to draw on as many senses as possible. Describe the smell of the trees, the sound of the water in the stream, the light coming through the trees. Perhaps put on some soothing music. Whatever you can think of to immerse your loved one in a tranquil environment.
Ask your health care provider about medicines that can help.
Which of these strategies would appeal most to the person you care for?
Help your family member learn to conserve energy—physical energy—so he or she has enough “fuel” to enjoy special activities and to exercise according to doctor’s orders.
It’s a simple strategy: Consider that there’s a limited amount of energy each day. If your relative is careful how energy is used for the routine tasks in life, he or she will have enough left over for necessary exercise and life’s pleasures.
Plan for the entire day and pace activities. Encourage your loved one to
allow ample time
Planning ahead allows for a more leisurely pace. Rushing wastes energy.
alternate activity with rest
Divide large chores into smaller tasks spread across the day or week.
Minimize trips up/down stairs. Shop with a list and in as few stores as possible. Cook in quantity and freeze the extra. Soak dishes first for less scrubbing later. After a bath, slip on a terrycloth bathrobe instead of drying with a towel.
get help when you can
Have medications and groceries delivered.
Throughout the day, there are many opportunities to reduce standing, walking, lifting, and bending:
Sit down whenever possible
When cooking, cleaning, bathing, dressing, or grooming face and hair, have a stool or seat handy.
Create task stations
Lay out supplies at waist height so everything is within easy reach before you start cooking, cleaning, bathing, or dressing.
Wheel or wear, don’t fetch
Use a cart on wheels, a walker with a basket, a pocketed apron, or a fisherman’s vest to keep supplies at hand.
To avoid bending and reaching, use a grabber for objects, an elevated toilet seat, and elongated handles on shoehorns, brushes, and dustpans.
What changes can you make to conserve your relative’s energy?
Anyone living with or helping someone with COPD will find it is a big job. And it takes its toll. In addition to daily assistance, COPD is unpredictable. There are good days and bad days. Your loved one can tire easily and may need to cancel even the most cherished plans.
The inability to make plans and get out of the house can be especially hard for spouses who are used to doing things together. “Cabin fever” is common for both the patient and family members. So is depression.
The importance of breaks
Staying cooped up and becoming depressed yourself will not be of service to the person you care for. You need to cultivate other activities to recharge your batteries.
Isolation and depression
Isolation frequently leads to depression in both patients and their partners. It has also been linked with worsening physical health among family caregivers. Unfortunately, spouses tend to feel guilty if they go out with friends or engage in pleasurable activities. But isolation only puts their own health, and ability to care for their loved one, at risk.
Solutions to “cabin fever”
Create personal time
Set aside time each day for a pleasant activity unrelated to caregiving. Even just 10 minutes reading a favorite book or talking with a friend can do wonders.
Stay active Do something physical every day, even if it’s just a walk around the house or yard.
Maintain relationships with others, even if just by phone or email. Join an online support group to connect with people who understand.
Do something carefree Take a real break now and then. Do something carefree. There are 168 hours in a week. Taking one or two hours for personal time without responsibilities is not too much to ask!
If your loved one has had several recent ER visits, it sounds like the symptoms are flaring a lot. You might want to ask for a palliative care consult. (You don’t have to have numerous ER visits, though. Concern about your loved one’s quality of life is reason enough.)
The “relief” experts
Palliative care is a special branch of medicine. Its providers are experienced in easing physical and emotional distress. They focus on the relief of difficult symptoms. Their goal is to improve quality of life for the patient and the family.
Palliative care providers look at medical and nonmedical solutions. For instance, with COPD, there are medicines that can help reduce the intense feelings of “air hunger.” Palliative care specialists can recommend exercises that let more oxygen into the lungs. It may be that massage will help relieve any pain or discomfort.
Palliative care specialists have strategies to reduce coughing. And methods to address insomnia. They can show you relaxation techniques for breathing anxiety. They can prescribe medicines. They can also work with you and your loved one to treat depression.
Contact us to learn more.The person you care for does not need to be on hospice to receive a palliative care consult. To find out more about this service, give us a call at 602-888-7037.
About one of every five seniors goes to the Emergency Room in a given year. Most ER visits are literally “by accident.” But some conditions, such as COPD, result in frequent trips to the ER. Packing an “ER kit” and having it ready to go at a moment’s notice can reduce some of the stress.
Create an “ER kit” and keep it updated with
A list of your loved one’s conditions, medications, allergies, and past surgeries. Include contact information for current physicians.
A copy of your family member’s insurance card(s). Include any prescription or supplemental policies.
This helps ensure your loved one’s preferences for life-sustaining treatment are followed. (See our article about health care planning.)
a change of clothes
This will come in handy if your loved one’s garments become wet or soiled.
ER visits are often lengthy and tiring. Pack water and snacks and cash for purchases. A pen and paper, a light sweater, and reading material or CDs can also come in handy.
What to Do: Strive for balance.
Stay calm Support your loved one with your calm attention.
Provide information to ER staff
Your input is essential to help them understand what’s different from “normal.”
Ask for periodic updates
It’s fine to ask every 40 to 60 minutes for an update. If your family member’s condition seems to worsen while you are waiting, alert ER staff immediately.
Observe and take notes
Write down what procedures were done and what medications were given.
Don’t leave without written instructions. Ask specifically about the diagnosis, follow-up care, and any new prescriptions. Be sure you understand when to call the doctor. If you are uncertain, ask questions until you know what to do.
If your loved one is seriously ill, he or she probably needs to make decisions about which treatments to pursue. These are deeply personal choices. And they aren’t always easy.
Weigh the options
Compare pros and cons Gather information into one document, perhaps a spreadsheet. Note as much as you can about each treatment:
What are the benefits/advantages?
What are the risks/disadvantages? For instance, are there any side effects?
What will “success” look like? (“How good does it get?”)
How likely is that outcome?
Will your loved one still be able to do the things that give him or her pleasure or purpose?
What about the option of “no treatment”? If a cure is questionable and treatments are difficult, this option may be worth considering. The person you care for might prefer to stay comfortable and pain free and spend his or her remaining time and limited energy on those activities that provide pleasure and meaning in life.
Apply personal values
For each treatment option, rate how important each benefit is: five stars for extremely important versus one star if it doesn’t matter much. Use this system for rating the disadvantages, too. Looking at the number of stars for each option is very helpful while making a decision.
Ask the support system
Serious treatment decisions are often made in consultation with others: the doctor, a spouse, other family members. They can be valuable counselors. But ultimately the decision rests with the patient. What does the support system say? Does your loved one agree with them? Why or why not?
Our article about quality of life may offer insights to help with difficult choices.
What are your loved one’s wishes concerning treatments, life support, and end-of-life choices?
As an Aging Specialist, a Senior Resource Center and over 20 years experience with Seniors “Solace Hospice” has excelled in comfort care and palliative care! They have been one of our preferred providers for years in Arizona. Their involvement in the Industry, their caring staff and their professional approach is appropriate when families need them most. Costel Roman the Director of Business Relations is the biggest advocate I have met in his Industry. Solace Hospice you are appreciated by thousands of families and Senior Living Communities in Arizona.
We could not be more grateful to Solace Hospice and their staff for taking care of our loved one, even though he was on service a short time. Everyone was so sweet to us and him and were very responsive to our needs and requests. The staff was skilled, informative, and available at any time of the day or night. Most importantly, they care about us. They spend time with us. We laugh together and cry together. We always looked forward to visits. Thank y'all for everything.
I have written only a handful of reviews in my lifetime. I felt this one necessary. I have worked as an employee for Solace Hospice in Phoenix for over a year and a half. The genuine care, respect and compassion for our patients and families is outstanding. Today, our team received a generous gift card from the owner, Thomas, for Thanksgiving. Even more impressive….He and his family stayed up until 3 am cooking a homemade Thanksgiving feast for us. He walked in wearing a suit jacket, sat down and enjoyed the meal along side of us like family with little rest. This is not the first time our owner and management team have gone above and beyond to make us feel appreciated or to help out in difficult times. Thank you! Our office staff does an amazing job of multitasking behind the scenes and I truly wonder how they get it all done. Our Executive Director, Maggie, (whom I’ve nicknamed work horse) is an exceptionally hard worker whom won’t ask for a thing she wouldn’t do herself and more often does so without asking at all. She is intelligent, kind, fair and very supportive. She wears many hats well and makes it look easy. Our nursing staff is incredibly competent, compassionate and juggle the day to day challenges well. Our CNA’s are some of the hardest workers I have ever had the pleasure of working with and no matter how busy things get, they always manage to get everything done. Our Social worker, Shanna, is a wealth of knowledge and is always willing to help out. Our Chaplains are kind, down to earth, compassionate and funny. Our volunteer coordinator, Barbara, is always smiling, knowledgeable and fun. Our marketer, Costel, bends over backwards to meet the needs of patients and families. I am proud and honored to be a part of such an incredible team and have never enjoyed a job more. Thank you to all of the Solace Hospice Team!
I had a great working experience with Solace Hospice and all of the staff I have encountered, open communication and great quality in their service. The people we worked with so far starting with Costel Roman, the RNs Gina and Heidi and amazing social worker Shana enabled us to continue to work with them and refer Solace Hospice.
Been working with Solace Hospice for over a year and never cease to amaze me! They cater to each individuals needs and go beyond the scope of service. Stephanie, Sammy, Diane and Costel are doing a fantastic job, giving 110% of love and hard work and making sure everything that it’s needed arrives within 24 hours. If you’re looking for a great Hospice give them a chance, they will never disappoint.
I was reaching out to try and get some help with my mother. I called this company and was not aware they did not cover all of Arizona. I spoke to a wonderful lady who I think was Bev. She assisted me in finding a hospice for my mom. She had knowledge of hospices in the Prescott area. If I ever move to Phoenix I will be stopping by their offices to say thank you. She held my hand and called me back the next day to make sure that we were getting care for mom. They went above and beyond.
I can’t say enough about Solace Hospice. The level of care and attention to personal detail is so much higher than the other hospice company I dealt with. My family recently experienced the loss of our mother followed by our father in fairly close succession. All I can say is thank you Solace and I wish I had discovered you sooner. My mom’s passing was handled by another company. I can tell you they are not the same. Solace operates with a premium degree of care and compassion during such a difficult time
I cannot thank Solace Hospice enough for the amount of love and support they have provided my family with during this hard time. They were attentive, caring, informative and overall extremely experienced in this field.A special thanks to Maggie, Bevery, Katie, Janet, Diana, (just a few of the many) for the help you provided.Thank you all so much!!!Enea
I work with Solace Hospice and they are fantastic. Costel Roman from Solace Hospice is very professional, high ethics and integrity, and also he is respected and well known by the health community in Arizona. Simply put, it's a pleasure to work with Costel - I strongly recommend him!
I would like to express my gratitude to Costel Roman - Director of Business Relation at Solace Hospice, Thomas Fedzin - Owner of Solace Hospice during a difficult time in my life. There is never an easy moment to loose a loved one. Costel Roman and Solace Hospice have helped my mother to go to Heaven and be with the angels peacefully. God bless all of you for being by my side!!!
Solace Hospic is Definitely #1 Hospic in Arizona a team that’s Compassionate towards the needs of not only patients but owners and also caregivers. Costel Roman is so Professional and always gets the job done . Ask him what he can’t do he will tell you what he can do to make the experience working with solace comfortable as possible. Solace will always be my go to Hospic.
I've worked with multiple staff members at Solace Hospice and each and everyone is so incredible passionate about caring for the community. As a wife of a Director of Nursing at an assisted living facility, I hear often about how important great care -- Solace provides great care!
I absolutely LOVE working with Costel and and Beverly!! Costel (AKA Roman) has excellent communication and I value his team immensely! I highly recommend this team if you are looking for a hospice company with great communication skills, friendly faces, and caring hearts!
As a nurse and the owner of several assisted livings, I have had many encounters with different hospices.Solace Hospice has been amazing and has gone above and beyond for my patients and their families! Always helpful, always receptive to the patients needs and always there when needed.Thank you Solace for the outstanding care and dedication your company and your staff provides.
We are so glad and relieved to have met Costel Roman of Solace Hospice.When he came to our assisted living homes and introduced himself he sat with us and explained Solace Hospice’s vision and approach to compassionate high quality care.We were very pleased to hear that residents and families needs are above all else.These past months we worked along side them with a few of our families in our homes .We cannot praise Costel and all of Solace’s staff Enough on the quality of care,professionalism demonstrated and the compassion showed by all of Solace’s staff to the families and our team.We will only recommend a company to our families if we know and experienced first hand that they are among the best in their profession.Congratulations to Solace for putting together an outstanding team. You guys definitely exceeded 5 stars! Luis Pescador.
We were recently reintroduced to Solace Hospice by Costel Roman and Jesse Watson, two of their community liasons, and in the process were impressed with their client-focused service. The biggest selling point for us as a group home is that they were not going to be a hospice that simply stopped fighting for a client and allowed them to die. Many of our residents and their families initially are fearful of the word “hospice” and typically think it means a death sentence. Many of them are not ready to give up the good fight and Solace has been a partner with our home to ensure the resident, their family, and our group homes are all respected and active partners in the continued care and needs of the resident. Everyone from their intake staff, RNs, and CNAs was compassionate, caring, and dutiful in their tasks. Special mention goes to the Nurse assigned to our home, Sabrina. She helped us guide the resident and their family through the difficult process of passing away, and her knowledge and compassion for my resident and her family will never be forgotten. Owning three different group home locations has given me plenty of experience and exposure to many different Hospice companies, but without a doubt, Solace Hospice is one of the best. I can not recommend them enough, whether you be a group home, a family member of a loved one, or someone looking to work at a hospice company. Thank you Costel, your team provided me much peace of mind. I look forward to continue to working with your team.
I cannot begin to describe the gratitude and appreciation my family feels about the experience we had with Solace Hospice. I didn’t know quite what to expect at the time when my father was on your service. My father had such great care! My concerns were quickly relieved. Thank you for the kindness and compassion you have given to us and for the genuine concern for my father and for our family. We sincerely appreciate your tireless effort to care for all your patients and their loved ones, and your eagerness to assist at every turn.
I own 5 assisted living group homes around the Phoenix area. I am always relieved when my residents and their families choose Solace Hospice to help their loved one. I can always rely on Thomas and his staff to take care of my residents. They interact incredibly well with my caregivers and offer assistance 24/7. And they back it up. There have been numerous times when we needed some help from Solace in the middle of the night. Someone from Solace would come out to the home without hesitation and take care of everything. Thank you Thomas for running such a wonderful company!
Great professional help during a hard time. Thank you for making things easier to manage during our time of need. They gave our loved one lots of comfort any time he needed it. Which added relief to me as I knew he was in good hands. Thank you so much Thomas and staff!
As a care coordinator for multiple assisted living homes, I am grateful for the opportunity to have Solace Hospice care for our residents. Working closely with Thomas and his staff Is always a pleasure. All around, a great experience.
Thomas and staff were always friendly and available to help us. We learned so much about our Client’s situations. They are definitely very knowledgeable and confident of what they do to help our clients in our group home meet their needs.