November is National COPD Awareness Month, a time to talk about the disease and raise awareness around symptoms and treatment. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is a lung disease that causes difficulty breathing and shortness of breath due to airflow blockage. COPD affects nearly 16 million Americans, and millions more live with undiagnosed symptoms. Earlier diagnosis can help those living with COPD begin to improve their health and quality of life.
COPD may be a large burden on an individual. Without proper management and education, COPD can affect all sorts of activities of daily living. Anxiety and depression among COPD patients and their caregivers only make the problem worse. If you are living with COPD, it is important to recognize any changes in your symptoms and any limitations on your activities to better manage day-to-day living with COPD. The following are recommendations for living well everyday with COPD.
Recognize the importance of practicing prevention strategies
It is important to monitor changes to physical and mental health when living with COPD. Below is a list of prevention recommendations:
- Get vaccinated (annual influenza and routine pneumonia);
- Wash your hands routinely. Stay home when you are ill;
- Stop smoking if you currently do, and eliminate exposure to secondhand smoke;
- Review your medication list with your health care providers to ensure the list is current and you know how to properly use your medications;
- Ensure you have a sufficient supply of medication at home, especially during winter;
- Be aware of changes in mental health and communicate any changes to your health care provider and informal caregiver (spouse, child, etc.).
Monitor symptoms of COPD
People living with COPD should track symptoms and share any changes with a health care provider:
- Please share any increase in coughing or difficulty breathing with your healthcare provider;
- If a new medication is not working for you and not minimizing your symptoms, please tell your health care provider;
- It is always okay to obtain a second opinion.
Anxiety and depression are common in patients with COPD and their caregivers
Mental health may impact someone’s ability to manage his or her COPD. It is important to be aware of the following:
- Anxiety and depression in COPD patients is associated with increased COPD flare-ups, increased hospitalizations, longer lengths of a hospital stay, and decreased quality of life;
- Be an active part of your care team. Be proactive with your physical AND mental health care;
- Maintain physical activity, especially in fall and winter. Physical activity can have positive benefits on physical health and mental well-being—make sure to talk to health care providers about physical activities you can do indoors or at home.
If you care for someone living with COPD, it’s important to also take care of your own well-being. View RHA’s Caregiver’s Toolkit to learn more about ways you can help support those you care for while taking time for yourself.