How to Prevent Emphysema in the Elderly

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Emphysema is a progressive disease that typically takes years to develop and is usually the result of long-term exposure to smoke and other toxins. The lungs start to lose elasticity and become less effective in exchanging carbon dioxide for oxygen. While there is no cure for emphysema, there are steps your senior loved one can take to reduce the risk of developing this debilitating condition or causing further damage to the lungs.

1. Stop Smoking and Avoid Environmental Irritants

Smoking is the primary cause of emphysema. If necessary, encourage your loved one to talk to the doctor about smoking cessation therapies. Help your loved one avoid exposure to secondhand smoke. Even if a family member smokes outside of the house, the residual smoke on the hair and clothes can exacerbate emphysema symptoms. Your loved one should also avoid aerosol sprays, plug-in air fresheners, household cleaners, and other substances that can produce fumes.

2. Conserve Energy

The fatigue from normal daily tasks can make it harder for a senior with emphysema to breathe effectively. Small changes in routines and the way a home is organized can help your loved one reduce the number of steps he or she has to take and allows him or her to conserve energy. For example, rearrange kitchen drawers and cabinets so items are as close as possible to where they will be used, and use a small utility cart with wheels when cleaning the house to make it easier to transport items from room to room.

Sometimes seniors with emphysema or another medical condition require assistance to complete daily tasks. A Fort Worth, TX, home caregiver is the perfect option if your elderly loved one wishes to age in place with greater independence. Cooking, bathing, grooming, and light housekeeping are just a few of the important everyday tasks a caregiver can help with.

3. Exercise Regularly

Exercise not only tones muscles, it also helps tone the lungs. Exercises that focus on the upper body are especially beneficial for seniors with emphysema since they use their neck and chest muscles when breathing. Walking, lifting light hand weights, and swimming are among the most beneficial exercises for older adults with emphysema.

Seniors who want to remain healthy as they age can benefit in a variety of ways when they receive professional home care. Fort Worth, TX, Home Care Assistance is here to help your loved one accomplish daily tasks, prevent illness, and focus on living a healthier and more fulfilling life.

4. Adapt Eating Habits

Emphysema causes air to become trapped in the lungs. Over time, the lungs become enlarged to the point they push down into the abdominal cavity, which makes it difficult for the stomach to expand after a large meal. Your loved one may find it more comfortable to eat six small meals a day rather than three large ones. Look for food options that are high in protein and pack a lot of nutrients and calories into a small portion. 

5. Practice Effective Breathing

Seniors with emphysema often have a chaotic breathing pattern. Encourage your loved one to take uniform breaths that originate in the diaphragm. Babies naturally breathe from the diaphragm, but breathing becomes shallower as they grow older and become adults. This means many seniors are not utilizing their full lung capacity. To practice diaphragmatic breathing, ask your loved one to lie down on his or her back with a book on the stomach. If your loved one is breathing from the diaphragm, the book will rise and fall with each breath.

Help your loved one prevent emphysema and other serious conditions using these tips. Some seniors need occasional assistance at home, and oftentimes the family members who take care of them need time away to run errands, take a nap, go to work, or take a vacation. Fort Worth, TX, part-time care experts from Home Care Assistance are available on an as-needed basis, giving your family peace of mind that your loved one will remain safe and comfortable while you relax or focus on other important responsibilities. Call a Care Manager at (817) 349-7599 to learn how our compassionate caregivers can boost your loved one’s physical, emotional, and cognitive wellbeing.