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Stories

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): There Is Help!

Wendy IsemanWendy Iseman, Retired Social Worker and Health Educator

COPD Support Group Offered at Poet’s Seat Health Care Center

If you are an adult with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, you know that life can often be pretty tough. Shortness of breath makes it difficult to climb stairs or walk to the corner store. For some people it is difficult to comb their hair or brush their teeth. Coughing and bringing up secretions can make you very tired and sometimes embarrass you when you are out in public. The anxious waiting for a bout of shortness of breath can cause you anxiety.

COPD, which includes emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and asthma, is characterized by extreme shortness of breath, coughing, heavy secretion of mucus requiring frequent expectoration, wheezing, and chronic fatigue.

The causes of chronic lung disease are many, but chief among them are cigarette smoking, long-term exposure to occupational hazards such as asbestos, chemical fumes or smoke, and of course, air pollution caused by motor vehicle emissions and industrial pollution.

According to Lung.org, about 85-90% of COPD cases are caused by cigarette smoking. Cigarette smoking also contributes to the development of chronic bronchitis and is often responsible for triggering asthma attacks in people sensitive to or allergic to tobacco smoking. Children with asthma may also have attacks triggered by secondhand cigarette smoke.

Family and social relationships can change radically with the onset of COPD.

An adult with COPD faces more than the uncomfortable, frightening symptoms of lung disease. Loss of employment is common due to the physical and mental stress involved in travelling to and from work and the physical environment of work itself. In the years prior to “no smoking in the workplace” laws, many people with COPD faced involuntary termination of employment. Even with today’s strong workplace regulations against smoking, health care costs and productivity lost due to cigarette-induced chronic lung disease amounts to losses of $300 billion to the American economy every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control

Family and social relationships can change radically with the onset of COPD. The loss of a job or one’s physical strength can cause a person’s self-esteem to decline rapidly especially if he or she has been a major contributor to family finances. Changes in the status of a person’s health through severe fatigue, exhaustion, and reduction of interests like hobbies, family life or social relationships, can cause real upheavals in family and friend relationships. Depression is often common among adults with COPD.

According to Living Well with Chronic Lung Disease: A Guide for Patients, Families, and Caregivers, there are many treatment plans available to help people with COPD. Your doctor or a member of your pulmonary rehab team can prescribe an individual treatment plan tailored to your needs. There are many tools in your treatment plan including: breathing retraining, medications, stress management and relaxation techniques, treatment for anxiety or depression, energy conservation and pacing techniques, special diet, exercise, symptom management and prevention, airway clearance techniques, help with sleep disorders, oxygen therapy and quitting smoking.

Getting Help!

On the third Friday of every month at 11 a.m. - 1 p.m., a group of men and women gather at Poet’s Seat Health Care Center, 359 High Street, Greenfield, to talk about their lung conditions and needs with Sandy Dellert, Respiratory Therapist at Poet’s Seat. Ms. Dellert makes a presentation at each session on some facet of lung disease management: avoiding colds and flu, how to do breathing exercises, getting a flu shot, successfully using a CPAP machine if prescribed by a doctor, the dangers of vaping, and much more. The meeting is open for questions to Ms. Dellert and the participants themselves. In fact, much learning comes from the attendees themselves because many of them have been struggling with COPD for years and they have found successful ways to manage their disease. A delicious lunch is provided by Poet’s Seat kitchen staff, free of charge.

To find out more about the monthly COPD support group, please call 413-774-6318 at Poet’s Seat Health Care Center. Leave a message with your name and phone number and Sandy will get in touch with you!

Further Resources