Is Your House Ready for COPD?

Just after the initial diagnosis of COPD, your (caregiver) mind is running in a thousand directions.  “What does this mean?  Are we prepared for something like this?  What do I need to do?”  All extremely important questions, and each one is so difficult to fully answer because they really address several areas of life.  One of those areas is the physical house.  Is the house ready for the future?

This can be a very difficult conversation.  Many times the house is thought to be the home until the end.  Sometimes the home has been passed down through the family, and sometimes there are financial constraints that would cause any changes to current house, or a move, to be almost unreachable.

Remember that all situations are very different, so your needs may be different from others. Here are some things to consider:

Stairs

As the disease progresses, it will become more and more difficult to go up and down stairs.  About midway through mom’s end stage she spent three weeks in the hospital, ten days on a ventilator.  After that, she could not go up or down stairs without substantial help and a bump up on her oxygen.  It was an incredible accomplishment when she would make it up our stairs to spend a little time in the loft with my son, and she was so excited when she was able to do it. She just loved being able to see his space and be involved in his world.  However, the days to follow, she would be very tired.  There is no way that she would have been able to walk up and down the stairs on a daily basis.  Thankfully at our house, she had a downstairs bedroom, and her home was one story.

There was one problem with their one story home.  There were steps to get in the house, four in the front and about twelve in the back.  She tried a few times to get in the house through the front.  Honestly, it did not take long for all of us to know that they needed a ramp, and thankfully a few family members pitched in and built them a ramp.  It was the only way that mom could be home.  There were times that she had to use a wheelchair in the last few years, but most of the time she used a rolling walker.  Both proved that the ramp was necessary.

If it is early in the disease and you do not have any downstairs bedrooms, consider what the cost would be to have a lift installed.  If a lift will not work in the home and there is no downstairs bedroom, you may need to begin thinking about moving or making adjustments to the living space on the ground level.  I know that these are tough decisions, but believe me, if you begin talking about these things now, it will not be a surprise later.  Also, think about the cost and begin saving now.

Cabinets

It becomes increasingly hard for the patient to lift their arms above their heads for any amount of time.  Add to that, trying to maneuver and bring down something moderately heavy and you will have a patient that is very short of breath.  A simple thing to do is to move all of the day to day, frequently used things to the lowest shelves.  Also think about the cabinets on the floor.  It is also hard for the patient to get down and find something in the back of a floor cabinet. If at all possible, move the things most used to the top shelf of the floor cabinets.

Be ready and willing to retrieve the things that are difficult for them to reach.  It is important to be observant.  If your patient is trying to cook a meal, ask what ingredients, pots, and pans are needed and help them by placing them all on the counter or table before they begin.  Just being able to reach something that is needed will be a huge help.  You will learn that their independence is very important to maintain.

Rugs

They are beautiful and useful, but they are also a fall hazard.  As your patient progresses, you need to consider removing many, if not all of the rugs in your home.  As mom’s doctor once said, “We have enough to deal with.  We don’t need a broken hip to deal with too.”

These are just a few of the things that you need to think about in the home.  There are many more, but this is a good start.  If the home is sentimental or the situation is difficult, please approach this conversation with care.  Remember that your goal is the care and safety of your loved one.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The COPD.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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