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How To Make Your Home More COPD Friendly

Living with COPD is a daily challenge. While there’s only so much that you can do outside of your home to make living with this illness easier, there are some great changes that can be made in your own home to improve your daily life. We’ll go through some changes that can be made right at home! Of course, if you’re having significant difficulties around the house due to your COPD, you should definitely consider hospice care, along with these tips.

Avoid Stairs

One of the most straightforward ways to avoid stairs is to simply move to a new home without stairs, or rearrange your home so that you no longer need to use the stairs. However, this isn’t always a viable option as moving can be extremely physically taxing and expensive if movers are hired.

Additionally, sometimes a home simply can’t be rearranged enough to make it entirely livable without using the stairs. The most effective solution is to install a stairlift that’ll allow you to move up and down your stairs freely, without having to rearrange your home. Stairlifts can go on just about any set of stairs, including around corners, and are often collapsible so they don’t obstruct the stairs when you have guests over.

chair lift at bottom of steps

Improve The Bathroom Experience

Many people living with COPD experience more discomfort when breathing in the bathroom, primarily due to steam buildup. Improving the ventilation in your bathroom should increase the flow of fresh air and help alleviate the steam buildup. This can be done easily by opening windows or bringing in a fan to encourage ventilation.

Of course, there are other things that can be done to improve the bathroom experience; things like supplementary oxygen while showering, shower chairs to reduce strain, and using less hot water can all help to make the bathroom experience more friendly.

An exhaust fan can show its true value in a situation like this, as they are typically in the ceiling and out of the way. If your bathroom doesn’t currently have an exhaust fan, it might be worth your while, and your comfort, to consider getting one installed.

Have Your Air Ducts and Air Conditioner Inspected

Most modern homes have some form of air ducts to help with climate control during different seasons, although these ducts are a prime location for dust and irritants to collect. Combine this fact with how easy it is to forget about your air ducts, and you have a recipe for airway irritation.

Air ducts should ideally be cleaned once every 3 – 5 years, but more frequently is advisable for those living with COPD.

Replace Your Carpets

A home’s carpets can draw the aesthetic of the room together, but they can also be a harbor for dust, pollen, mold spores, and more. It’s unlikely that you’ll ever be able to truly clean your carpets, because all the different contaminants that irritate your respiratory system are able to settle down below the carpet itself. Once all this junk gets trapped into the carpet, it’s continually released with every step.

The best remedy for this issue is to remove all the carpets in your home and replace them with hardwood flooring. Hardwood and laminate flooring is much easier to keep clean which reduces the contaminants that get released into the air.

close up of hands installing flooring

Use Less-Harsh Chemicals

It may seem like the only cleaning solutions that truly work are ones that have harsh fumes; solutions like window cleaner and bleach are prime examples. The issue is that these solutions work so well because they are aggressive, which means their fumes are going to be strong, and therefore more irritating for someone with COPD.

Cleaning can be a taxing chore to undertake, so it might be a good idea to consider hospice care for COPD patients to help around the house. Even if you utilize assistance and aren’t the one directly interacting with the chemicals, it’s advisable to replace the harsh ones with more gentle options; their fumes will likely still be able to irritate your airways no matter where you are in the home while they’re being used.

Now, nobody’s asking you to throw away all your cleaning supplies, it’s just suggested that you opt for less-harsh options like regular soap and water with a good brush. You can also use baking soda for scrubbing, vinegar and water instead of window cleaner, or boiling water combined with lemon juice or denatured alcohol for an effective cleaner and degreaser that’s gentler on your airways.

Cost and Affording

Some of these mentioned improvements can be a little on the pricey side, especially replacing all the carpeting in the home. It’s understandable that this may be a deterrent, however, your health and comfortability in your own home is something that should be prioritized. There are many different options that are available to help with such costs. Some of these options are more well-known, such as personal loans or financing options.

Other options that may not come to mind but are just as worthy of consideration, include home equity loans or cash-out refinancing on a mortgage. One cash-out refinancing option worth considering is a loan backed by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA loans). They offer lower down payment requirements and allow you to loop the cost of the home upgrades into your mortgage payment. This means you won’t have to worry about a second monthly payment like you would with a personal loan.

Next Steps

The one place that you should be feeling most comfortable is your home, and hopefully, some of these suggestions can help make that possible. Living with COPD is a challenge, so if these changes aren’t enough then consider enlisting help. We have a full team of caring professionals ready to help you or your loved one receive the care that’s appropriate to their specific needs. If you would like more information on hospice care and the services we provide, please contact us.

Elderly man giving himself a breathing treatment using a mask

COPD Awareness Month: Hospice Referral Guidelines

By: Laura Mantine, MD

Chronic lung disease is the 4th most common cause of death among older adults in the United States. More than 3 million people worldwide died of COPD in 2015, representing 6% of all deaths that year. People dying from COPD frequently experience difficult and uncomfortable symptoms that lead to distress and panic. They commonly have disabling respiratory symptoms including severe breathlessness, limited tolerance for activity, and intractable coughing. They are also usually oxygen dependent, often experience anorexia with weight loss, cachexia, and ultimately become dependent on others for their activities of daily living.    

COPD and Hospice Care

Despite the symptomatic needs of individuals dying from end-stage COPD, only 30% of individuals receive hospice care before death. It is not clear why the rate of hospice use for patients with COPD is so low, but several explanations have been offered. The most important may be that few patients with severe COPD have discussed end-of-life planning with their clinician. Furthermore, many patients and clinicians do not view COPD as a terminal illness and feel it is more chronic in nature. Also, there may be a lack of awareness that patients enrolled in hospice can continue to receive treatments for COPD. Due to the fluctuating course of COPD, it is often difficult to accurately estimate a patient’s life expectancy which may contribute to low hospice utilization rates.

Hospice Eligibility Guidelines for COPD

While end-of-life-care is an appropriate topic to discuss with all patients, several factors have been suggested that should prompt a discussion with patients who have severe COPD. One factor is simply that a clinician would not be surprised if a patient with COPD were to die within the next 6-12 months. A clinician should consider hospice referral in a patient with COPD if they are dyspneic at rest or with minimal exertion, have progressed to the point where they spend most of their days at home, have experienced repeated ED visits (one or more each quarter) due to infection or episodes of respiratory failure, have endured repeated hospitalizations (one or more each quarter) and no longer wish to be admitted and the patient no longer wishes to be intubated.

The major hospice eligibility guidelines for COPD are:

There are other important clinical factors that also may support a patient’s hospice eligibility. These are:

Abnormal laboratory findings may also trigger a hospice referral such as:

While these laboratory studies may be helpful to the clinician when considering patient appropriateness for hospice services, they are not required for patient admission.

How Hospice Can Help COPD Patients

COPD is a significant health issue around the world. It is ultimately a fatal disease and patients are under-referred to hospice care. Hospice, with its strong interdisciplinary approach, has been shown to improve quality of life for patients with end-stage respiratory disorders like COPD.

Please contact us if you have any questions about how our team can help COPD patients.

References:

Hospice Eligibility for Patients with COPD. Serena J. Scott, MD, Barry D. Weiss, MD, Ellyn Lee, MD, College of Medicine, University of Arizona.  https://uofazcenteronaging.com. June 2017.

When to refer patients with advanced COPD to palliative care services. Rebecca Strutt. Breathe (Sheff). 2020 Sep; 16(3): 200061.

Referral to palliative care in COPD and other chronic diseases: A population-based study. Kim Beernaert; Joachim Cohen; Luc Deliens; Dirk Devroey; Katrien Vanthomme; Koen Pardon; Lieve Van den Block. Respiratory Medicine. Volume 107. Issue 11, P1731-1739. November 1, 2013.

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