A man surrounded by speech bubbles showing a journal, a backpack, and a rollator

Ask the Advocates: Assistive Devices

Last updated: November 2020

We asked our advocate team which assistive devices work best for their condition and lifestyle. Check out their answers below, and comment with your own answers!

Advocate-approved assistive devices and tools for COPD


I’m not sure if some of these tools/devices qualify but, one particular device that’s been particularly helpful to me is the run of the mill, everyday grocery shopping cart.

Whether I’ve got my backpack strapped on with my “D” oxygen tank blazing away (lol), I find it helpful to “lean” onto the handle of a grocery shopping cart/wagon when I’m in the store.

I’m not talking about throwing my whole body onto the handlebar as I’ve seen some folks do (and I cannot figure out why/how they do it). Rather, just shifting as much weight as I can onto my arms and then leaning.

Now, granted, I’m not at many of these places to do major shopping (i.e. the week’s groceries for the family).

And it may look a bit odd to see someone like me pushing the cart with a single quart of milk in it. But when you’re at a Home Depot, Walmart or some kind of other large, superstore, inevitably, what I need is at the furthest end of those mammoth building and I’m going to have to walk there to get it!

Speaking of backpacks, I find the run-of-the-mill, everyday backpacks from camping stores like Eddie Bauer, LL Bean, Cabela, Lands’ End much better than those that are supplied by medical warehouses.

  1. They have more room.
  2. Their zippers are more pliable and seem to last much longer than medical brands
  3. Extra pockets for valve keys, cannulas, and hoses.

Read Kevin's bio here!


My Rollator is my absolute favorite assistive device. It is a Hugo Elite with a padded seat, ergonomic handles, extra large wheels, a storage bag under the seat, another in the curved backrest, can handle up to 250 pounds, and is a stunning cobalt blue. All it's missing are racing stripes and fuzzy dice. It's lightweight so I can pack it in my van and handle it myself. It's comfortable and when I'm in the middle of an activity like grocery shopping, it's an ever-present resting place. Sometimes my legs give out when I'm walking and with this walker, I can sit down immediately or I can hold myself up by grasping the handles. It helps me steady and balance myself. It can go almost anywhere and because it's a rolling walker it moves smoothly without tripping me up.

You can get a rollator by prescription and most insurance plans will cover it. Another option is to purchase one online. Some drug stores sell walkers. Some hospitals have associated thrift stores and sometimes you can find walkers and wheelchairs there. There are also some thrift stores that are dedicated to helping the disabled and usually carry walkers or wheelchairs at a very low price.

Read Michelle's bio here!


One thing that made life easier for mom to get up and down was to get an extra firm foam cushion to use in her favorite chair. We found an upholstery store who cut a square that was exactly the same size as her chair. We folded a complementary colored fabric around it. Lifting the regular cushion out, we put the firmer foam down, and simply put the original on top. It elevated her about 4 inches. It helped in a couple of ways. First, it didn't allow her to sink so far down. Second, she was able to stand up more easily without as much effort.

Read Karen's bio here!


One tool I use on a daily basis is what I call my “Lung Journal.” You might have heard it called a COPD diary as well. Every day I write how my breathing was, if I had any issues, what the weather was like and any other triggers or if/how many times I needed to use my rescue inhaler or nebulizer, and any other notes I want to add. Keeping a daily (or even weekly if daily is too much for you) journal keeps it all together in one place so when you have appointments with your pulmonologist or primary care doctor you can bring it with you to refer to. I also have a section where I write down any questions I have for my doctor or any specific things I want to address at that appointment. I’m glad I write things down because when I’m in the room with the doctor 9 times out of 10 I will forget something I really wanted to talk about. My doctor is always impressed when I bring the book in with me!

Read Theresa's bio here!


There are some devices that can assist people living with COPD. One I’m most familiar with as a respiratory therapist is an acapella. This is a light weight device you can hold in one hand. It has a mouthpiece you put into your mouth. You put it up to your mouth and put your lips around the mouthpiece. As you blow into it you can feel vibrations inside your chest. These vibrations can help knock thick mucus from your airways so you can more easily cough it up. So, these neat little devices can help improve your cough. I give these a lot of times to patients in the hospital setting. I do this especially when they feel like they have stuff in their throats but can’t get it up. Acapellas can help with this.

Read John's bio here!

What tools or devices have you found that have helped you? Comment below!

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