When your family member or friend is diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), it’s easy to feel helpless. But though the condition tends to worsen with time, there’s much you can do to make life easier. These tips will help you provide meaningful assistance when it’s needed most.

Clear the Air

group of colorful open paint cans with brush

Avoid using products that produce fumes—such as paint, insect spray, and strong cleaning products—in their presence. If their home is being painted or sprayed for bugs, offering them a place to stay in the meantime could be helpful. Keep windows and doors closed when they’re in your home.

Go for a Walk

young female caregiver with senior patient

Physical activity may be difficult for people with lung disease. But in many cases, it can help strengthen their breathing muscles and improve their overall health. With their doctor’s approval, you can assist them in starting and sticking with a gentle exercise program. 

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Watch for Warning Signs

Severe symptoms require emergency medical care. These include trouble speaking, blue or gray lips or fingernails, a fast heartbeat, and mental confusion. If you see these signs in someone with COPD—or if your loved one is having trouble getting his or her breathing under control by using recommended treatments—call for medical help right away

Steer Clear When You’re Sick


Colds and the flu might be inconvenient for you. For someone with COPD, these illnesses can cause serious problems, including additional lung damage. When you’re under the weather, keep some distance between you and your loved one. Encourage him or her to get a flu shot. 

Be Patient

senior couple walking over bridge

People with COPD may have to move a little more slowly to avoid losing their breath. Don’t rush them through everyday tasks. Offer to help, but give them space to maintain their independence. Be understanding when they must modify their routine—for instance, taking the elevator instead of the stairs.

Help Them Kick the Habit


The most important thing people with COPD can do for their health is quit smoking. Support them in their efforts. Be patient and positive, forgive them when they slip, and celebrate their successes, big and small. And definitely don’t smoke in front of them. 

Lift Their Spirits

Woman on phone

Coping with COPD can provoke feelings of anxiety, fear, stress and depression. Ask your loved one how he or she is feeling, and listen carefully to the response. In fact, active listening may be one of the most compassionate gestures you can offer a person in distress. Offer emotional encouragement and assistance in locating a support group or a mental health professional, if needed.

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