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Caring for Individuals with COPD

By John W. Walsh

(Page 3 of 5)  

“Pushing the COPDer when they are not ready can lead to frustration and strain on the relationship,” Anzalone says. “Often, the COPDer worries that they will burn the caregiver out, while the caregiver worries that they are not doing enough. Caregivers should keep in mind that the COPDer may prefer to be given the space to feel better rather than being made to feel better. Ultimately, it is up to the COPDer to make sure the caregiver understands what they are going through so that they are better able to provide the best care.”

In general, individuals with COPD must feel free to discuss the disease. Open, clear communication is the best way for caregivers to negotiate that fine line between doing everything for the individual with COPD and empowering them to perform tasks on their own.


People with COPD have trouble clearing their lungs of bacteria, dusts and other pollutants in the air, which puts them at risk for lung infections that can further damage the lungs. As caregivers, it’s critical to watch for signs of infection and take measures to help prevent them, such as: 

  • Asking visitors with cold or flu symptoms to come back when they are feeling well

  • Keeping the environment clean and free from smoke of any kind, excess dust, pollen and air pollution

  • Washing your hands frequently, especially when handling food, equipment or medication

Warning signs of infection include: increased shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing up increased amounts of mucus, yellow- or green-colored mucus, fever over 101°F, chills, increased fatigue or weakness, sore throat, congestion and headaches.


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