Approximately 3.5 million people in the United States are diagnosed with emphysema annually.
It’s a lung disease that damages the air sacs, making them stretch out so they don’t work the way they should. As a result, an older adult with emphysema may have trouble breathing and cough frequently. Having a better understanding of the disease can help you to take better care of an older family member with emphysema.
The air sacs in the lungs are made up of many small spaces that hold air. When emphysema damages the air sacs, the walls inside the sacs break down and rupture. That creates large spaces for air instead of the several smaller ones. By making these larger spaces, there is less surface area in the lungs, which results in less oxygen entering the bloodstream. And, when the older adult exhales, they may be unable to get all of the old air out of their lungs, which means there is less room for fresh air.
Experts say there are two main causes of emphysema. They are:
- Exposure to Irritants: Long-term exposure to irritants in the air can lead to emphysema. Tobacco smoke is the most common irritant. Other irritants include air pollution, dust, and chemical fumes.
- AAT Deficiency: This is a far less common cause that involves a person having less of certain kind of protein, called alpha-1 antitrypsin (AAT), in their body. AAT keeps the body’s immune system from harming healthy tissues. In people with an AAT deficiency, the healthy tissues in the lungs can be damaged over time.
Coping with Emphysema
If your aging relative has emphysema, it’s important that they see a doctor regularly for treatment and follow the doctor’s advice. In addition, there are certain lifestyle changes that can help to manage symptoms, such as:
- Quit Smoking: The longer a person smokes, the more damage is done to the lungs. Talk to the doctor about ways to quit.
- Avoid Irritants: Paint fumes, cooking odors, perfumes, scented candles, and incense can all irritate the lungs. It is also a good idea to change furnace filters and air conditioner filters to reduce air pollutants in the home.
- Exercise: Regular exercise helps to strengthen the lungs and increase their capacity.
- Avoid Breathing Cold Air: Cold air can make the bronchial tubes spasm. Covering the mouth and nose with a scarf or mask warms the air before it enters the lungs.
Elderly care can help your aging relative to manage symptoms, too.
An elderly care provider can help the older adult to stop smoking by offering them a distraction when they have an urge to smoke and reminding them to use the smoking cessation techniques recommended by the doctor.
Elderly care providers can also help the senior to exercise regularly by going for walks with them, monitoring them while they exercise at home, or driving them to an exercise facility.
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Elder Care in Oakland, CA, please contact the caring staff at Golden Age. Providing home care in the East Bay, South Bay & Peninsula areas through our Castro Valley and Sunnyvale Offices.
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