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COPD: Caregiver Tips for Bathing

Many people living with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) struggle to find their breath. For someone with COPD completing even the most simple activities of daily living can be exhausting. 

Along with shortness of breath, symptoms of COPD include lethargy, loss of appetite, swollen hands and feet, muscle cramps, a productive cough and difficulty sleeping.   

Many caregivers comment that people with COPD can appear very set in their ways and like things just so. When routines are changed or things don't go to plan a person with COPD may become very anxious.

Imagine the fear associated with feeling like you can't take a breath? Carers can help reduce fears by sticking to the preferred routine and planning ahead. Encourage a person to do what they can and give plenty of reassurance.

As COPD progresses, caregivers may need to help a person with showering and bathing.

There are many things caregivers can do to ease shortness of breath and anxiety associated with COPD.

  1. Make use of assistive aids. Encourage a person to sit on a shower stool or chair. Look out for chairs with comfortable backs, adjustable legs and wheels for moving a person from room to room.  
  2. Conserve energy. For people with COPD even showering can be a form of physical activity. Encourage a person to time and plan their activities around their energy levels.
  3. Use of oxygen. To relieve breathlessness ask your doctor about using oxygen in the shower. You will need a long oxygen tube that you can carefully drape over the bathroom door or shower rail. Check with your oxygen supplier. Humidity can be troublesome for breathing, try leaving a window open a crack or use an exhaust fan.
  4. Personal grooming. Sit at a dressing table where you can rest whilst facing a mirror to shave, comb hair and apply makeup.
  5. Clothing. Avoid clothing that is restrictive around the middle or tight at the ankles. Avoid socks or stockings with tight elastic bands that can stop blood flow. Use a shoe horn to put on socks and shoes. Slip on shoes can be easier. Choose clothes with a scoop neck or open buttoned shirts.  
  6. Protect your skin. Medications associated with COPD can cause skin to become dry and prone to skin tears. Pat skin dry or instead of towel drying use a large terry robe to absorb moisture. Avoid showering too often and apply moisturiser after shower when skin is still wet.

  7. Avoid bathroom irritants. Soaps, aerosols, perfumes and bathroom sprays can be irritating and compromise breathing. Choose roll- ons, pump and gel products that are not too smelly.
  8. Safety. In case of an emergency. Never lock the bathroom door. Some people prefer to keep their puffers and inhalers handy. Consider using a medical alarm device whilst in the bathroom in case of falls.  



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