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How the Elderly Can Reduce Their Risk of Emphysema

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Emphysema is a disease in which the small air sacs in the lungs are destroyed after long-term exposure to environmental toxins or cigarette smoke. The air sacs, called alveoli, are unable to expand to take in oxygen and cannot shrink to force out carbon dioxide, which can make breathing difficult and interfere with a senior’s ability to perform daily activities. The disease is largely preventable by avoiding smoking. However, the lung damage caused by emphysema cannot be reversed.

Aging adults who have emphysema or another serious medical condition and require assistance with the tasks of daily living can benefit from reliable senior care. Birmingham, AL, families trust in Home Care Assistance to provide the high-quality care their elderly loved ones need and deserve. Our caregivers are trained to help seniors prevent and manage serious illnesses and encourage them to make healthier decisions as they age.

Here are 5 strategies to help seniors manage the effects of emphysema.

1. Exercise the Lungs

Seniors with emphysema should breathe from the diaphragm to make the most of their lung capacity. Strengthening the abdominal muscles makes it easier to exhale effectively, which makes room for more oxygen when inhaling. Most drug stores sell small devices designed to exercise the airways. These devices are plastic mouthpieces that create resistance as the senior blows into them. A ring adjusts the size of the opening. As your loved one gets used to one setting, he or she can decrease the size of the opening, increasing the resistance.

2. Maintain an Ideal Body Weight

Fatigue and difficulty breathing even from minimal exertion can cause your loved one to become sedentary and gain weight, which can increase the amount of energy required to perform daily activities and exacerbate symptoms of emphysema. Low-impact physical activities like walking and swimming can help eliminate excess body weight as well as strengthen the lungs.

A senior with emphysema may find it challenging to accomplish daily tasks. If your senior loved one needs part-time care, Birmingham, AL, Home Care Assistance is here to help. Our part-time caregivers are trained to assist older adults with a wide variety of everyday tasks, including meal prep, physical activity, and personal hygiene. We also provide 24-hour care and specialized care for seniors with Alzheimer’s, dementia, and Parkinson’s.

3. Focus on Nutrition

If your loved one is underweight because he or she is using too much energy just to breathe, focus on adding calories to his or her diet. The best options are usually high-protein, nutrient-dense foods. Encourage your loved one to eat six small meals a day rather than three large meals since the enlarged lungs can make it difficult for the stomach to expand after eating.

4. Control Anxiety

Even though emphysema is a physical condition, psychological factors can worsen the symptoms. Being in a constant state of panic or worry about the disease can trigger a physiological response that increases the heart rate and respiration and increases the body’s demand for oxygen. Counseling or a support group for people living with emphysema can provide emotional support and alleviate concerns about this chronic disease.

5. Work Smarter Not Harder

Encourage your loved one to focus on breathing and using his or her energy more efficiently. He or she can do this by:

  • Organizing tasks with as few steps as possible (for instance, rearranging the kitchen so utensils are located close to where they will be used)
  • Using a utility cart to transport items from room to room when cleaning the house
  • Exhaling through pursed lips when lifting or climbing stairs and inhaling when resting

Living with the symptoms of emphysema can be challenging for seniors. If your aging loved one needs help managing the tasks of daily living and you’re searching for a reliable, expertly trained caregiver, Birmingham, AL, Home Care Assistance is your top choice. At Home Care Assistance, our caregivers strive to make aging in place a safer and more comfortable experience for seniors so they can enjoy their golden years in better health. Call (205) 438-6925 today to speak with one of our experienced Care Managers and schedule a free in-home consultation.