Older adults are especially susceptible to serious respiratory issues, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, cystic fibrosis, sleep apnea, and lung cancer. With conditions of this nature, the first step is to ensure your aging loved one is receiving proper treatment from the doctor or an appropriate specialist. As for what you can do while providing care, some suggestions are offered below.
Discourage SmokingThis may seem obvious, but some seniors are reluctant to fully kick the smoking habit even when living with a chronic respiratory ailment. Nicotine replacement therapy, medication, and efforts to shift focus with other forms of stress relief are some of the techniques that may help your loved one permanently ditch this habit and better control the symptoms.
Encourage Regular Exercise & Healthy EatingHealthy diet and exercise habits can make it easier for your loved one to lose excess weight or maintain a healthy weight. Doing so reduces added stress and strain on the lungs. While you’ll want to check with your loved one’s doctor before implementing exercise and diet changes, seniors with chronic respiratory conditions tend to benefit from:
- Eating smaller, nutrient-rich meals throughout the day to minimize possible issues with swallowing without sacrificing nutrition
- Drinking plenty of water to keep circulation flowing to the lungs
- Performing slower, controlled forms of exercise such as yoga that also focus on proper breathing techniques
Enhance Sleep HabitsA lack of sufficient sleep can have a big impact on quality of life for seniors, especially if it’s compounded by symptoms specific to their respiratory conditions. Talk to your loved one’s doctor if this issue is a concern. Sleep habits may be enhanced with efforts that include:
- Sticking to regular bedtimes and wake-up times
- Limiting caffeine intake later in the day
- Planning regular activities during the day to discourage excess napping
- Creating a comfortable sleep environment
Manage Medications CarefullyMany seniors with chronic respiratory issues take medications for various conditions. This is why care should also include being mindful of what’s being taken, what directions are specific to each medication, and if there are possible interactions or side effects to watch out for.
Use Oxygen & Other Equipment AppropriatelySome older adults with respiratory issues need to receive oxygen or use other pieces of equipment such as CPAP machines on a regular basis. If this applies to your loved one, make sure you know how such devices are correctly used. Also, be aware of the directions for use specific to your loved one.
Reduce Infection RisksOlder adults, in general, are more susceptible to infections because of age-related changes in the immune system. However, infections can be especially dangerous if your loved one already has a weakened immune system because of a chronic respiratory issue. Certain infections common among seniors, such as pneumonia, can be potentially life-threatening if lung function is already inhibited. Minimize infection risks for your loved one by:
- Keeping up with recommended vaccinations
- Frequently washing your hands while providing care
- Limiting in-person contact if your loved one is especially susceptible to infections