For those with COPD, living with lung impairment can make even simple tasks seem overwhelming. While some more elaborate tasks may seem out of reach, we can still be productive and save precious energy by simplifying how we do things.
For example, if your task is as simple as bathing, you can simplify by purchasing a large handled bath brush so you don’t have to reach, using a terry cloth robe to dry yourself, or maybe even have a shower or bath chair so you can sit while bathing. When cooking, it doesn’t take any extra time to make larger portions so you can freeze leftovers for times when you don’t feel optimal.
Whether the task is big or small, the steps are the same:
A man with very severe lung impairment had a dream of meeting his granddaughter for the first time in another part of the country. Traveling by air would be impossible due to his high supplemental oxygen use, but he knew he was still very capable of driving. In assessing his task, he took a couple of shorter trips. He spoke with his doctor and respiratory therapist and asked for their advice and any concerns they might have. He increased his exercise routine at pulmonary rehabilitation to build his stamina. He had his car checked over completely for anything that might become a problem.
He spoke with his oxygen supplier about providing oxygen at different legs of his trip. Since he used liquid oxygen, he planned his route around availability, and where possible arranged to visit other liquid oxygen users along the way to fill up his reservoirs. He also added another task to the list by planning to visit a couple old army friends along the way. He planned an emergency oxygen supply to have on hands including a portable concentrator that he could use in the car if necessary. He scheduled the trip well in advance including looking at long range weather forecasts.
He mapped out the entire trip and located a place to stay at the end of each leg. Before departure, he verified hotel reservations and instructed them as to what assistance he would need. He wrote an itinerary for family and friends, and the emergency numbers of his doctor. When all this was completed, Joe took what he later said was the best journey of his life. A man with stage 4 COPD needed to install a home generator. He researched the various models and downloaded installation manuals. He selected the unit that had the best reviews and easiest install. Using the install manual, he made a list of every step determining which he could do himself and which ones would require outside help. He assembled all the materials he needed, scheduled his help and installed the generator. It took him a month, but now he no longer worries when the power goes out.
A former 9/11 rescue worker with COPD had a simply dream: he wanted to be able to play on the floor with his grandchildren. He enrolled in pulmonary rehabilitation and told them what he wanted to accomplish. They started him on an exercise routine to build up his stamina. They gave him techniques that he could employ while sitting on the floor and even allowed him to practice there at the rehab. It took a few months, but one day I received a photo simply saying, “Here is a picture of me and my amazing grandchildren playing!”
A severely lung impaired lady had a dream of dancing at her daughter’s wedding. She planned every step along with her respiratory therapist who showed her simple techniques that they then practiced at pulmonary rehabilitation. She spoke with her oxygen provider who provided her with a portable oxygen concentrator she could easily carry for the big event. After a couple months of training and planning, she danced.
A very good friend once told the most profound thing I have ever heard from another with COPD. He said, “In my mind, I still run.” Even with COPD, we still all feel the need to accomplish things in our life and to remain a vital part in the lives of others. Our illness should never totally dictate what is important for our quality of life.
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