Basics for Caregivers: Equipment

There will be an increasing number of pieces of equipment as your patient progresses. As each piece is added, it is important to think about your patient. Not only is there a new piece of equipment, but there was a reason that it was added. I do not know of anyone with COPD that is excited to bring home a new piece of equipment. They will never look at it like the latest phone or computer. It will be another mile marker in their journey.

It is important to show compassion as you both are learning how to use it. Maybe your loved one is not wearing the oxygen as much as they should. Maybe the Bi-PAP is just collecting dust on the table. Whatever it might be, it is your job as the caregiver to encourage. Encourage the oxygen use as prescribed. Encourage taking treatments from a nebulizer instead of puffs off of an inhaler. Encourage using the Bi-PAP or C-PAP as often as prescribed. These tools have been given for a reason, to help them breathe.

Oxygen
The oxygen may have a stigma attached to it for your patient. Maybe it is something that they used to make jokes about to their friends, or maybe they feel like if they use it, they are giving into the disease.

My mom probably went about 6 months to a year past what she should have gone without oxygen. I remember many conversations later in her journey that she mentioned that she wished she would have used her oxygen as it was prescribed. She knew that she could have done more in the early years, if she would have just used her oxygen. As she got further into the disease, the limitations were greater, and she was physically unable to do things even with oxygen.

There have been many advances since my mom first started using oxygen. There are small, portable concentrators that can make a day trip so much easier than what we were able to do. Just don’t forget your back-ups.

Nebulizer
In some of the early stages you may only be dealing with inhalers, but as things progress, you will be using a nebulizer to help the medicine reach deeper into the lungs. There is one major “problem” with a nebulizer. It takes time.

My mom hated the amount of time that she spent taking breathing treatments, but she also could not survive without them. It became a love/hate relationship.

Rolling Walker
Here is one that you might not be thinking about, but I highly recommend it. My mom fought this one so hard. It took a while, even after she had one, to realize what a help it really is. These provide stability, rest and a place to store your stuff. There I said it! No longer did we have to figure out who was carrying the pocket book, the oxygen, her ever present drink cup and hold her arm to keep her steady. Once she realized all that, plus she could help again by maybe carrying our small diaper bag in the basket, a whole new world opened up to her.

She really didn’t use it much around the house until the last year, but her doctor encouraged it even at home. Her doctor kept saying, “We have enough to deal with. We don’t need a broken hip too!”

Get to Know the Equipment
There will be oxygen concentrators, tanks, liquid oxygen, nebulizers, Bi-PAP machines, and the list could go on. You need a good understanding of how they work. Don’t skip class on this, so to speak. Having a good understanding can be the difference between a wonderful day and a trip to the hospital.

Your oxygen provider should explain everything thoroughly when they bring new equipment to set it up. If you have a smart phone, take a video of the explanation so that you don’t miss anything. If you don’t have a smart phone, make sure that you get the paperwork with any one sheet, simple instructions that they may have available.

Have a Plan
You need to know what it looks like when it is working properly and what it looks like when it is malfunctioning. You need to know what to do if something is wrong with a piece of equipment.

If your oxygen concentrator stops working in the middle of the night or the power goes out, what is the first thing that you should do? This may differ depending on each situation and what is available to you. For example, if you have a patient that only uses oxygen at night, you may only need to wake the person up while you fix the problem. If your patient is on oxygen 24 hours a day, 7 days per week and cannot be without oxygen, the first thing you will do is give the back-up oxygen to them.

If the nebulizer stops working, where are the inhalers that can be used in its place? If the Bi-PAP or C-PAP stops working, will your patient be okay without it for a few days while the oxygen supply company gets you a new one? If the power goes out to the entire house, do you have a generator that could power the most important things, and are you at a point that you really need one?

Your equipment is an important part of your life. There is no need to be afraid of it, but you must also understand it. Remember, years ago many of these things were not even invented yet. Many people have the ability to live a longer life and enjoy it because of these developments. Help your patient to see this, and you empower them to keep living each day to its fullest.

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