Chronic Lung Disease, Day-to-Day Care: for Caregivers

Toilet with modified seat, shower chair, grab bar and handheld water nozzle in bathroom.

Chronic lung disease may include COPD, which is chronic bronchitis and emphysema, pulmonary fibrosis, or sarcoidosis. With chronic lung disease, even getting in and out of bed can be difficult. Coping with the physical limitations of these conditions can be a challenge for both patient and caregiver. But you can each take steps to simplify your daily routine.

Living healthier

Try to stay in good health. For example:

  • Encourage each other to stay active. Think of ways to be active together. You might go for a walk or do some gentle stretching exercises. Or, try some chair exercises. For example, you can lift your legs up and down while sitting.

    • Physical therapy. Your loved one may benefit from physical therapy or PT. Talk with your healthcare provider about it.

    • Pulmonary rehabilitation or rehab. Look into programs in your area and encourage your loved one to participate. These programs help those with chronic lung conditions to better deal with their conditions and stay as active as possible.

  • Help each other plan and prepare meals.

    • Try to choose healthy foods. There are a lot of very unhealthy choices, but there are also healthier versions of most foods. There are low-fat, low-salt frozen dinners for example.

    • Although your loved one may be limited, think of ways he or she can help. For example, sitting at the table to cut vegetables.

  • Try to manage stress. Talk with your healthcare providers if you are having a difficult time managing stress, or are feeling depressed or anxious. You might consider yoga, deep-breathing, or meditation. Learning to relax and to breathe more slowly can help both of you.

  • Get enough sleep. Both of you should try to get enough sleep each night. A short nap may be OK, but too much napping makes it harder to sleep at night. If symptoms are making it hard for your loved one to sleep, talk with his or her healthcare provider.

Making living spaces safe

Even a few changes can make your home safer. Try these tips:

  • Getting help. Therapists can help you with home safety issues. Talk with your healthcare provider about home physical and occupational therapy.

  • In the bathroom, make changes to modify the shower or tub for safety. Get a waterproof stool and handheld water nozzle. Install grab bars to make getting in and out easier. Use only non-slip bath mats or rugs.

  • In the kitchen, make sure items that you use often, such as dishes and silverware, are within reach. Keep these items as close to counter-height as possible. Bending or reaching for items can cause injuries to your loved one.

  • Through the house. Make sure floors are safe. And, remove throw rugs to prevent tripping. Make sure all areas are well lit. Install grab bars and hand rails.

If you or your loved one smokes

Smoking worsens symptoms and harms health. If either of you smokes, it’s time to stop. Speak with a healthcare provider or call the American Lung Association to learn about smoking cessation programs. Also, try the following:

  • Make a list of reasons to quit. Keep the list handy and read it often.

  • List the places, feelings, and things that make you want to smoke. Think of ways to avoid them.

  • Think about what you can do instead of smoking. Again, make a list, and then use one of the items on the list, if you want to smoke. For example, you might go for a walk, call a friend, or chew a piece of sugarless gum.

  • Ask your healthcare provider or pharmacist about medications to help you stop smoking. Some are available over-the-counter and some only by prescription.