COPD in Seniors: Improving Quality of Life through Self-management

The cost of treating COPD in Canada was was 1.5 billion in 2008 and continues to grow.

There are over 1.5 million Canadians who have been diagnosed with Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and as many as 1.6 million more Canadians may have COPD but remain undiagnosed. It is the fourth leading cause of death in Canada and the leading cause of  hospitals admisision for chronic medical conditions. COPD is a result of damage to the lungs, most commonly caused by smoking, and is usually a mix of two diseases, bronchitis and emphesyma, that affect the person’s ability to breathe. Because it develops slowly, symptoms usually show in middle-aged individuals and senior adults, especially in seniors 65 and older, and can be debilitating, preventing the person from managing basic daily living activities.

While there is no cure for COPD, senior adults affected by this condition can take steps to slow progression of the disease and improve their quality of life.

Self-management for senior quality of life

Seniors with COPD can take the following self-management measures to help maintain their quality of life. Before embarking on a self-management program, senior individuals should consult with their medical providers.

Stop smoking: Quitting smoking and avoiding second-hand smoke are two key actions individuals with COPD can take to slow progression of the disease.

Exercise: There is very strong evidence that senior adults with COPD who exercise regularly will experience better overall quality of health. In one study, patients with COPD who engaged in very high levels of usual physical activity showed a 46% decline in readmission rates to hospitals.

Maintain a healthy diet: Senior adults with COPD should discuss their nutritional requirements with their doctors. Breathing with COPD uses more energy, so the proper diet is essential to maintaining energy and health.

Breathe clean air: Older adults with COPD should avoid chemical fumes from cleaners and stay indoors when air quality is low.

Get a flu vaccine: Seniors with COPD are at greater risk for getting seriously ill with the influenza virus, which can lead to pneumonia, one of the main infections that precipitates a hospital admission in individuals with COPD.

Be aware of symptoms and interactions: Monitoring the time, dates and activities that precede symptoms can help individuals with COPD provide their physicians with important data for managing their disease.

Follow medical providers’ instructions: Being compliant with medication and oxygen therapy as well as rehabilitation and other doctor’s recommendations can help seniors manage COPD at home and slow the progression of the disease.

Get help for seniors at home

As COPD progresses, senior individuals will find that they may not be able to manage daily living activities without help. Seniors or their families may choose to hire an in-home caregiver to help with light housekeeping, running errands and getting to appointments, taking medications, toileting, grooming, and more. Comfort Keepers® in-home care can help seniors with COPD maintain their quality of life for as long as possible within their own homes. For more information on how Comfort Keepers can help, contact your local office today.


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