As a caregiver, it's important to learn to recognize the warning signs of an approaching Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, or COPD, spell or attack. Most of the time, the patient will be able to tell when he or she is experiencing breathing problems or when an attack is imminent. However, there are some signs that are less obvious.
Sputum is the mucus-like material found in the lungs that should be clear in color. Patients will frequently cough and spit up sputum, so it is important to watch for a change in the consistency or color of the sputum. This is an indication of additional problems. Sputum that becomes thicker or changes colors to yellow, green or that is blood-tinged should be reported to a doctor.
Patients with COPD often develop swelling in their ankles. If this happens, the feet should be elevated immediately. If swelling continues after 24 hours, notify the doctor.
Shortness of Breath
If you notice the patient has an increased shortness of breath, along with increased coughing and wheezing, a breathing treatment is probably required. Try the pranayama technique: Lie down in a comfortable position. The three essential components of pranayama are to exhale, pulling your stomach muscles in and trying to expel all of the air out of your lungs. Wait a moment, then inhale, trying to draw as much air as you can into your lungs. This should be a slow, gradual process, not something you force. This should help with symptoms. If symptoms do not subside after breathing treatments that are one hour apart, the doctor should be called.
Living with COPD can be difficult, but the key is to learn the warning signs and how to manage the illness to improve the patient's quality of life. Treatment should begin early in order to preserve as much of the lung function as possible. With the use of portable oxygen, those with COPD can resume their normal daily activities, including travel, social events and exercise.
To learn more about helping care for those with COPD, download the free guide, “Caring for a COPD Patient.”