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One Breath at a Time
One Breath at a Time

As a caregiver to a loved one with COPD, Holly McBain offers a unique insight into the trials and tribulations this disease has on the patient, the caregiver, and immediate family. Over the course of time, Holly and her mother have encountered a wide swath of issues concerning the disease and its effects on the patient and how it also affects the caregiver.

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COPD: The Importance of Equipment Maintenance

A patient suffering from COPD has a great deal of equipment and medicine which requires maintenance and proper handling. My mother, a COPD patient, has portable oxygen canisters, a canister holder that rolls, a wheel chair, a rolling walker, air tubing and lanyards, a permanent oxygen supply machine with a humidifier, a nebulizer, and various medicines and supplements. Each and every one of these items must be cared for on a daily or weekly basis. If I fail to care for these items, the consequences could be disastrous.

All of the equipment (except the medicines and supplements) is delivered by a local medical supply company who performs a yearly inspection on the fixed oxygen supply machine. Unfortunately, if you wait an entire year before inspecting the equiptment,  it will likely have already failed. The machine has side filters made of foam which must be cleaned once a month or the performance (and hence the productivity) will diminish.

It is important to keep track of the number of empty oxygen canisters and call the supplier when only two filled bottles remain. Always perform an inspection of the rolling holder to check for any signs of wear, breakage or other issues and get it replaced as well. It the meter begins to slowly lose air, have it replaced immediately. Remember that whenever you take the patient anywhere, always bring a spare full oxygen canister as a backup. Replace the air lanyard at least once every month and after each infection or exacerbation.

The filters on the fixed oxygen machine should be rinsed out every week, same as the humidifier bottle. Make sure you check the water level in the humidifier bottle every day. I just automatically fill it every morning so I don’t forget and it runs dry. Use only purified water in the humidifier bottle otherwise the aspirator tube will quickly clog. Replace the air hoses and lanyard every month and after every infection or exacerbation.

As for the nebulizer, change the breathing tubes and equipment every month and after any illnesses. I have two weekly pill containers (one for the morning and one for the evening) for all my mother's medications. It allows me to keep track of her pills so I will know ahead of time when I need to refill one.

Whenever my mother is hospitalized, I wash all the linens and laundry immediately and thoroughly clean all the surfaces  with germ-fighting aerosols. It avoids a repeat of the illness that landed her in the hospital in the first place. It may seem somewhat OCD to do all this, but it will make things easier for you and your patient. Plus, it allows you as the caregiver to keep better track of their entire maintenance and regimen.

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Tags: Healthy Living

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About the Author

Since a COPD diagnosis in 2006, Holly has served as the caregiver for her mother Joan.