Routine, Awareness, and Self-Management
You want to live? Of course you do. In this short article, I will hopefully offer an insight that might one day save your life. We must appreciate that most if not all of us with COPD are often like a fragile flower. Make no mistake. A wrong move can be deadly. Sadly many have fallen to never recover because of inaction, bad management, or awareness. For that reason beating the reaper is our game.
Routine, awareness, and self-management
Routine, awareness, and self-management might one day save your life. Awareness has certainly saved mine. While self management has almost certainly kept me out of hospital, and healthier. Sadly many have died because of inaction. Don't let that happen to you.
Routine is essential
Without a routine, I would be all over the place. I would forget to take my very important inhalers. Other medication too, or the dreaded steroids if needed. Routine will have us doing things automatically. For instance: I swing my legs out of bed in the morning. The inhalers are beside me on the bedside cabinet ready to inhale my medication. If I need the bathroom first that is ok. I return and inhale then. In the evening I go to my bedroom and get ready to shower. And inhale. At breakfast, or evening meal, I have tablets to take. Routine will become a habit. I am sure most of you have a system. But if you don't, time to gain that all-important routine.
The importance of awareness
One of the most important assets to have is awareness. How am I feeling today? Is my breathing normal or worse than usual? Am I more breathless than yesterday, or do I have more mucus? If so is there any sign of infection, different color in my mucus? How is my pulse rate? Do I have my normal get up and go?
We must be aware of what our bodies are telling us. I use an oximeter to keep an eye on my oxygen blood saturation levels. Always sensible in my opinion because 88% or lower and I have a problem that needs resolving.
Amazingly an oximeter will tell me if I am heading into an exacerbation at least 24 hours before I feel it, if my oxygen saturation level is lower than usual, and my pulse rate higher. I am aware to take emergency action as per my self-management plan as soon as the physical feeling of an exacerbation takes hold. It has occurred to me to take the medication as soon as the oximeter indicates trouble ahead. But instead am ready at the starting gate.
Stay ahead of the game
More than once I was rushed to the hospital within hours of feeling perfectly well. Both times pneumonia was to blame. The lesson is: pneumonia can, and often does kick in within hours. If you feel your breathing is becoming worse rapidly don't wait to see. It really is time for the emergency room. Remember: be aware. Stay ahead of the game.
You can play an active part
I do a lot of volunteer work within health management, and recently was invited to and attended a self-management seminar at the University of Wales in Cardiff. Self-management in Wales, UK, is now recognized as one of the best ways to both improve the health of those with chronic illness and to save lives. Wales, as in many other parts of the world, is using self-management with many illnesses and is in the process of developing apps for the smartphone to help in this important task. But even now, you can play an active part, and help yourself to stay healthy.
If you are at the moderate stage of COPD or above please make sure you talk to your doctor about keeping an emergency pack of antibiotics, and steroids. These packs have helped me many times. It really is amazing how I will go down with an infection on a Friday evening when I cannot see my doctor until Monday or worse during a holiday when everywhere is closed longer. By then without that pack, I could and probably would be in the emergency room. If you use oxygen always be aware to have plenty to spare, and a backup supply should you have a power outage, or bad weather such as snow cuts you off from the outside world.
If you have an emergency pack of medication as discussed with your physician, as soon as illness hits start taking the medication immediately. I have delayed and ended up very ill through delay. Still, others have delayed and it has been too late. Speed, when we are at the late stages of COPD, is all-important. For those of us that use oxygen, keep an eye on blood oxygen saturation levels. If saturation levels fall low, increase the oxygen intake to keep saturation levels above 88% but below 94% if you can, and let your doctor know what is happening, and what you have done.
All rolled into one
Self-management is awareness, routine, and management all rolled into one. Each has a part with the other. Be sure to sleep as well as possible. To be nice to yourself. To exercise. Keep warm. Have medication at hand. Someone you can call if needed. Have all the aids you need in your daily life. Relax. Smile. Listen to music you like. Hear the sounds of nature. Enjoy life and don't sweat the small things. All these help us to lead a good life despite our illness.
With that positive thought I leave you till I next write again. Whatever you are doing, Breathe Easy.
Do you live with any sleep disorders (eg. insomnia, RLS, sleep apnea) in addition to COPD?