COPD is a progressive disease, but it also has those moments where it’s worse than usual. These times are called exacerbations or flares and they can be dangerous for your senior. Learning to manage a COPD flare and to recognize when one is on the way is important for you as her caregiver.
She’s Coughing a Lot More
When your senior’s lungs are constricted or feel clogged, like with mucus or fluid, she’s going to cough more frequently. This reaction is an automatic reaction triggered by her body trying to make room in her lungs for more oxygen. The coughing doesn’t really do what her body intends, though, because of all that COPD entails.
She’s Got a Lot More Mucus
Your senior might be coughing up more mucus than usual, especially immediately before a flare. Often the mucus is produced by her body to fight off germs that the body is trying to get rid of, possibly unsuccessfully. The mucus might be thicker than usual, and it could be cloudy and shades of green and yellow. This might indicate that she’s in the beginning stages of an infection.
She’s Having Trouble Breathing
Between the coughing and the mucus, your senior may be having a lot more difficulty breathing. This can be a daily problem with COPD, but if she’s approaching a flare her breathing might be an even bigger challenge. She may be relying on her rescue inhaler more often or you might notice that she’s wheezing as she breathes.
She’s Having Sleeping Issues
Sleep can be tough to come by when a flare is on the way. This happens because there’s a drop in the amount of oxygen your senior’s body is getting. That makes her body have to work harder, even at night, just to get the air it needs. She may be exhausted and still be unable to fall asleep or stay asleep. As her breathing relaxes, she might be able to get better quality sleep.
She’s Easily Confused
Confusion is common when your senior isn’t getting enough oxygen. Her brain needs oxygen in order to function and when it’s starved of what it needs, her brain can’t work the same way that it has. You might start to notice that she’s responding a little more slowly or that she has more difficulty following conversations.
Talk to your senior’s doctor about how to best respond to a COPD flare. There may be techniques and medications that are particularly useful in her specific situation. It’s also important to pass that information along to anyone helping your senior, like elder care providers, so that they can respond quickly, too.