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How to Care for a COPD Patient at Home


Emcara Health Editors


May 31, 2023


What caregivers need to know about helping loved ones manage COPD—and how in-home physician visits from Emcara Health can help.

Coping with COPD: A Guide for Caregivers

Caregivers can help their loved ones better manage symptoms and avoid unnecessary trips to the hospital. Here’s how.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, affects almost 15.7 million Americans each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Many patients with COPD benefit from having a caregiver—a friend, loved one, or medical professional—who can help them manage the long-lasting and often severe symptoms of the illness.

The most important task for caregivers is spotting day-to-day changes in symptoms, says Mark Vidal, clinical services manager for Southwest Florida at Emcara Health. Caregivers must also understand the causes of a COPD flare-up—a period of days or weeks when symptoms suddenly get worse—and be able to quickly respond to them, he says.

By spotting the signs of a flare-up early, caregivers can help prevent the symptoms from getting worse, which helps the patient recover more quickly and avoid a trip to the hospital.

What Can Caregivers Do to Manage a Flareup?

According to Vidal, here are some of the signs and symptoms of a COPD flare-up that caregivers should keep an eye out for:

  • Chest pain
  • Worsening shortness of breath
  • Productive coughing, with or without blood
  • Rapid breathing
  • A tripod stance, or when a patient who is out of breath sits or stands leaning forward

Even something that seems simple, like making sure to have a “rescue inhaler” on hand at all times, can make a significant difference for patients, Vidal says.

In fact, caregivers should be tracking day-to-day changes in their patient’s or loved one’s behavior so they can quickly recognize when symptoms get worse and react before the flare-up becomes too severe, as that could lead to complications and a hospital stay.

“Never second guess your gut instinct,” Vidal says. “You know the patient, whether it’s a family member or a friend or otherwise, so if they just don’t seem right, then reach out for help. The most important thing is to do something right away.”

However, the caregiver’s job isn’t limited to responding to flare-ups. They should also be helping patients prioritize their health and well-being every day.

Patients who maintain a healthy lifestyle can reduce flare-ups and other symptoms of COPD. Putting general health and wellness first is the best way to lower the long-term risks associated with COPD.

“Caregivers must make sure patients take their medicines as directed and make lifestyle changes, such as proper dieting and rest periods between activities and meals,” Vidal says.

How Emcara Health Can Help

Caregiving isn’t a single job. Caretakers wear multiple hats and must master different sets of duties and skills to keep up with the needs of their patient. With all the things caregivers must keep top of mind while caring for patients, they might easily get overwhelmed.

That’s where a home-based medical provider like Emcara Health can help. It’s especially important for caregivers to stay healthy by recognizing and reducing the sources of their own stress so they can better focus on caring for their patient.

“If they’re not physically or emotionally stable, then they’re not going to be able to efficiently care for that patient with COPD,” Vidal says.

Emcara Health’s care teams, which includes doctors, nurses, community health workers, and behavioral health specialists, develops a care plan that addresses each patient’s unique needs. This includes tracking medicines, addressing home safety challenges, and managing care after a hospital stay.

Patients with COPD need individual care plans, Vidal says. That’s because the symptoms of COPD affect people differently, and caregivers may have to adjust treatment based on a patient’s comfort and level of ability.

As the people tending to patients daily, caregivers have the greatest understanding of their patients’ needs. At Emcara Health, we support them so they can be the best versions of themselves and provide patients with the best possible care.

“If we can get in that home and start treatment right away,” Vidal says, “we can improve quality of life and help avoid unnecessary trips to the hospital.”

To learn how Emcara Health can help patients with COPD—as well as those who care for them—call 1-800-728-0901 from 9 am to 7 pm Monday to Friday.

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