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Managing COPD: Tips for Helping a Loved One

Diet, exercise, and improving air quality are ways to help with managing COPD symptoms.

COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, is the term for two lung diseases: emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Basically, an individual’s breathing is severely affected by an obstruction to airflow. Prevailing symptoms include an excessively wet cough, wheezing, shortness of breath, and tightness in the chest. Managing COPD symptoms such as these can be extremely challenging.

By 2030, the World Bank and World Health Organization estimates that COPD will be the 3rd top cause of death around the world. COPD as a fiscal problem is a leading cause of disability-evoked joblessness.  

You, as a family caregiver, are on the front line of reducing this burden. Although there is no cure, COPD is treatable, and your caregiving is indispensable to an effective treatment program. As a leading provider of elder home care in Austin, TX and the surrounding areas, CareFor recommends diet, exercise, and environmental maintenance as areas in which you can considerably assist someone you love with COPD. 


A healthy diet provides someone with COPD with the energy and extra calories required to combat chest infections and to deal with their more labored breathing. Planning and preparing meals and otherwise advising your loved one regarding which foods to include are valuable ways you can help.  

Tiredness often stops people with COPD from taking in enough calories. Starting the day with a more substantial, more nutrient-dense meal when the individual you love has the most energy to eat can help. Following that with lighter meals through the day will not only help maintain calories, but also help prevent the person from feeling too full, which can cause more difficulty with breathing. 

Though a morning coffee may once have been the normal routine, unfortunately caffeine can react adversely to COPD medications and cause nervousness or restlessness, bringing about exacerbated symptoms. Additionally, help the senior stay away from foods high in salt, as water retention caused by salt also makes for tougher breathing.


Regular physical exercise is essential for successfully managing COPD symptoms. As a general rule, it improves endurance and increases blood circulation, making for an enhanced use of oxygen. Upper body exercises help with breathing and the ability to perform daily activities. Lower body exercises such as stair climbing and treadmill or track walking have also proven to benefit those with COPD. 

Breathing exercises, such as pursed lip breathing and diaphragmatic breathing, result in stronger breathing muscles, increased oxygen, and overall easier breathing. A good routine consists of sessions of five to ten minutes, three to four times each day.

Environmental Maintenance

Finally, it’s advisable to consider environmental concerns in the person’s home, especially as related to quality of the air. A good place to start is to keep the person’s home correctly ventilated through exhaust fans, open windows, and filtration systems. However, windows should remain closed during poor air quality days and dusty conditions, such as construction work. Also, sustaining a balanced humidity level prevents dry air from home heating systems and deters irritating pests attracted to more humid environments.

Avoiding or managing very cold air, fireplace and cigarette smoke, and other air pollutants are ways you can best serve a loved one with COPD, as does restricting the use of personal care products including hair sprays, perfumes, and lotions.

Housekeeping can go a long way towards limiting irritants in the house. Remove and properly store dust-collecting clutter. Weekly bed linen laundering reduces dust mites, as does keeping rugs and carpets vacuumed and floors clean. At the same time, limiting exposure to harsh household cleaning products and other chemicals, such as air fresheners, is necessary. 

Find more tips on helping a person with COPD live the healthiest possible life and how our in-home caregivers can partner with you to ensure quality, seamless care. Contact us any time at (512) 338-4533 to learn more about our elder home care in Austin, TX and the surrounding areas.

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