For many seniors with COPD, the early signs will go unnoticed or be blamed on other ailments or lifestyle decisions such as smoking or being out of shape. Because of this, it’s not unusual for seniors to ignore the signs and simply live with the symptoms, at least at first. That is why it is important for the loved ones of an older adult to watch for these signs and take action.
People cough for a number of reasons. Coughing is the normal reaction of the lungs to remove mucus or protect themselves from inhaled irritants such as smoke from a cigarette. For those that do smoke, oftentimes, a cough can be seen simply as a “smoker’s cough.” While this can be the case, coughing can also be one of the early signs of COPD. If an senior in your life has a chronic cough this should be checked out by their physician even if they are a smoker.
Shortness of Breath
Just like coughing, seniors can become short of breath for many reasons. Often one assumes that their shortness of breath comes from being out of shape or overweight. While this can be a cause, COPD and emphysema can also cause shortness of breath.
For many, this shortness of breath or a feeling of breathlessness may only occur when they are performing strenuous activities. This can cause an older adult to stop doing the activity that causes the shortness of breath. Unfortunately, this can lead to losing muscle tone and getting in worse shape which can lead to additional breathlessness while doing the same activity. It is a downward spiral that you, as the family caregiver, want to be sure your loved one does not start on.
Fatigue or Feeling Tired
One of the signs of COPD is feeling tired all of the time. Just like the other symptoms, this can be caused by other issues as well, but it is important to have it checked out by a physician if it is a new symptom. If your loved one has a general loss of energy that keeps them from engaging in the activities that they enjoy, this could be a sign of COPD especially if they also have a cough or shortness of breath.
If your loved one hears a wheezing sound or a whistling or squeaking noise when they breath as well as a feeling of tightness in their chest, this can be one of the signs of emphysema or COPD. This is typically caused by narrow or obstructed airways due to inflammation or irritation. This leads to a build-up of mucus that obstructs the airways.
If a senior adult in your life does have COPD, your loved one will notice large amounts of mucus being coughed up on a daily basis. In fact, when a senior has COPD, they may produce up to three times the normal amount of mucus daily. This is a byproduct of the lungs attempting to protect themselves by trapping inhaled particles.
The good news is that if your loved one is diagnosed with COPD by their physician, there are treatments and medications the physician could prescribe that your senior loved one can take. First off, if they smoke, they need to stop immediately. Beyond that, physician prescribed medications could include bronchodilators which comes in the form of an inhaler as well as inhaled steroids and oral steroids. In addition, oxygen therapy and pulmonary rehabilitation programs can go a long way to keeping your senior living a happy and healthy life. Finally, it is important to be sure to stay in the best shape possible.
If you have a loved one with breathing issues, do watch for the early signs of COPD. By bringing them to their physician and having the doctor diagnose this disease early, they can live a more productive life without limits.
Have you or a loved one experienced these 5 signs of COPD? What about any not listed here? Please share your story below in the comments.