COPD – Tools That Can Help Us
COPD is a slow progressive illness that can take many years to pass through the different stages. As we progress each may bring its own difficulties that we will be seeking answers to. You may find there are some tasks you no longer find as easy as you once did, if not almost impossible. This has been the case with me as my illness progressed.
I used to use several pillows when I slept to bolster my head as high as possible. Laying flat always had me coughing and wheezing more, leaving me more breathless in the morning. The problem was often I would wake to find my head flat and the pillows fell to the floor beside me.
Sleeping slightly raised helps us not to cough. Lie flat and it can feel as though there is an elephant on our chest as at times wheezing starts, followed by being kept awake by a cough. To solve this problem some years ago I invested in an Adjustable bed – a decision that was one of the best I have made. Now I can raise my upper body as high or low as I wish. When I am feeling good it will be lower than when I am having an exacerbation for instance. The foot of the bed can also be raised if you need to have your feet higher because they are swollen.
If you have not tried an adjustable bed you will be amazed how comfortable they are. Be warned after a while you will feel you do not want to sleep 'flat' ever again. For that reason, I don't like being away from my home for too long. One word of advice is to have your rescue inhaler by your side at night. Then if you wake up with a cough you can have a puff or two from your inhaler. This should settle you down quickly so you can settle down to sleep.
When we reach the severe stage most of us will find stairs hard to climb, making us increasingly breathless. More so when we are in the grips of an exacerbation. More than once I refused to leave my upstairs haven, where the bathroom is, because of the struggle to climb the stairs in my home.
There are two ways to solve this problem. One is to move to a ground floor one-story home. The other to have a stair-lift installed. The advantage of the stair-lift is this is much less expensive than moving home. And you get to keep living somewhere you enjoy. You may also find if you are registered disabled you are able to access a grant towards the cost of a stairlift. So well worth making inquires.
Bending down is a very real problem and can cause much breathlessness. As the lungs are so large, and extended by our COPD we crush them as we bend. Using an inexpensive tool such as a grabber, some call this item a litter picker, to get things we want off the floor will lead to a much less breathlessness. A grabber is an invaluable tool at times. As is a long-handled shoehorn to help put shoes on. I may, for instance, use my grabber to fetch my shoes, then my long shoehorn to put my shoes on my feet. Both a grabber and shoe horn is an inexpensive answer to the problems of getting shoes on and to fetching items from the floor.
Putting socks on for some time was a real hard chore for me. Lifting my legs as I held my breath to put socks on left me very breathless. Until I found a 'why did I not think of this before moment'. Now I lift one leg over the other. This raises the foot a long way, making it easier to put socks on. No aid here but this is a much easier way to tackle the problem I once found very hard. I do know cutting toenails fall into this category also but sadly have not found an easy way to cut my toenails, instead of leaving my good wife Lynne to do that job for me.
Lastly, a major problem for many of us is 'steroid bruising'. The preds are great. They help us to breathe while reducing inflammation in our lungs - but at a price. Many of us get very bad bruising on our arms because of our steroids. My bruising was so bad that several times this past year I took to wearing long-sleeved shirts as they looked so unsightly.
There is a cream called 'Arnica' that will lessen the bruising quite amazingly. Mine comes as a gel and is to me now a must-have. This is a nonprescription cream and is available on Amazon should you wish to try it.
If you know of any other ways to make our life easier, why not drop me a note in the comments section as I am always keen to know of other ways that will help us COPD'ers. Till I next write. Remember a smile is worth a thousand words. But most of all, Breathe easy.
Do you live with any sleep disorders (eg. insomnia, RLS, sleep apnea) in addition to COPD?