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Supporting People with COPD: May 25, 2014

It’s something so fundamental we probably take it for granted. But for those struggling with COPD, the simple act of breathing can become a non-stop nightmare.

“Having breathing problems can be very frightening. People that can’t breath are scared all the time, and they’re anxious and sometimes depressed and they really need support,” says Joan Carroll, director of Lee Memorial Health System’s Care Transitions program.

A mixture of bronchitis and emphysema, COPD is a progressive lung disease. Patients with advanced disease are in and out of the hospital. To help them better support, Lee Memorial Health System realized - you have to teach them.

“We started making home visits and we discovered some patients have oxygen tubing that would be 50, 75 foot, which means the patient isn’t getting any of the oxygen they thought they were getting,” Carroll says. “They weren’t taking their medication correctly. Some of the patients didn’t know the difference between acute inhalers and their daily inhalers.”

Faced with these conditions, quality of life was low. But giving COPD patients extra attention in their homes over the course of a year is proving to be life-changing.

Under the Care Transitions program, patients get help from specialized therapists who address medications, diet, conserving energy, symptom management, even social issues, with the goal of increased independence.

“Some of our COPD patients - their goal is to be able to walk to the mailbox because they haven’t done it in a long time. So when we get patients that are that severe and they can make it to the mailbox, it’s a real success,” Carroll says.

It’s about putting the ‘living’ back in life.