Around 1.2 million people in the UK are currently diagnosed with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). As the condition progresses, many will experience increasing breathlessness, require higher levels of support with everyday tasks and often need full time care as they become frailer and more dependent on others.
All staff working in care settings should have a sound understanding of COPD, along with its associated problems, and World COPD Day – which this year falls on 21st November – is an excellent opportunity to raise awareness of this debilitating condition amongst your team. Having enough knowledge to take just a few simple measures can make a huge difference to the quality of life for COPD sufferers so why not use World COPD Day 2018 to improve the care you offer to this vulnerable group?
Read on to learn more about COPD and the steps you can take to reduce the most common complications amongst your service users.
The winter months are the riskiest time of the year for individuals with COPD. Colds and flu, falling temperatures and a lack of access to regular fresh air and the outdoors can all mean an increased risk of complications, some of which can lead to life threatening episodes of ill health. However, being COPD aware can prevent many of these problems arising and help COPD sufferers in your care to stay well this winter.
4 Essential Tips for Effective COPD Care During Winter
- Maximise the benefits of medication: Using medication effectively in the care of people with COPD can make the difference between staying well and requiring urgent medical treatment. Any change in the timing or dose of medication, particularly when administered via inhalers or nebulisers, can lead to increased breathlessness, anxiety and rapid deterioration. Always ensure that COPD medication is given on time, as prescribed and, wherever possible, enable the person in your care to manage inhalers themselves to maximise their ability to manage their symptoms.
- Promote physical activity: Even though physical activity may increase a person with COPD’s breathlessness, it’s beneficial for them to remain as active as possible as this will help to maintain their lung capacity. Try to encourage a manageable amount of exercise each day, reminding them of the benefits of keeping active.
- Be aware of irritants: Common household irritants such as smoke, aerosols or cleaning products can all exacerbate the symptoms of COPD. By ensuring your staff are aware of the most common irritants you will be able to minimise the risks they present. For example, arrange to clean the room of a service user with COPD at a time when they will not be present or replace spray-on deodorant with a roll-on.
- Be winter aware: The increased presence of respiratory viruses during the winter months creates a serious threat to the wellbeing of people with COPD. Consider taking extra precautions such as reducing exposure to service users known to have symptoms of cold or flu, opening windows to ventilate rooms adequately, carrying out additional cleaning of hard surfaces and, of course, encouraging uptake of the winter flu virus vaccination!
For more on best practice in managing COPD and other common conditions in care service users, read Care Quality Matters. We offer a 30-day free trial of our newsletter for Registered Managers – which comes with loads of dowloadable tools and resources to help you provide the best possible standards of care.