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Chronic Lung Disease: Helping with Treatment, For Caregivers

For someone with chronic lung disease, visits with the doctor are vital for good health. Encourage your loved one to take the lead in his or her care. Then be there to give support as needed. Work closely with the health care team. Make sure all appointments are kept. Also help ensure treatment instructions are followed.

Young woman sitting at kitchen table talking with older man. They are holding inhalers and medications.

The Health Care Team

Many health care providers can be involved in treating chronic lung disease. Get to know these providers. This will help you feel better about asking questions.

  • A pulmonologist. This person offers special knowledge about lung problems. He or she may work with a primary care doctor to guide the treatment plan.

  • A respiratory therapist. He or she evaluates breathing skills and teaches breathing techniques to improve symptoms.

  • A physical therapist. He or she teaches energy-saving techniques and oversees exercise and physical activity.

  • Nurses. Nurses assist with all types of care. They can help answer questions and put treatment plans into action.

  • A social worker or case manager. He or she helps with paperwork and answers questions about health care issues. A social worker can also provide referrals to needed services.

  • A pharmacist. This person fills prescriptions. He or she also provides information about medications and how to take them safely.

  • A nutritionist. This person assists with the nutrition needs of the patient.

  • A representative from a home health care company. This person helps with equipment needed for treatment, such as oxygen. He or she can set up and show how the equipment is used.

Visits to the Doctor

Visit the doctor with your loved one. To make the most of these visits, work together to:

  • Keep a file for medical records. Include all medications that are taken. Have as much medical history as you can. Bring the file with you to the doctor’s visit.

  • Keep track of changes in symptoms, diet, and physical activity.

  • Prepare a list of questions and concerns. Make sure these are addressed before you leave the doctor’s office.

  • Bring a notepad. Write down what the doctor says.

Common Treatments

Try to learn about your loved one’s treatment. This helps you support good care habits. Here are some common treatments:

  • Medications. These help manage symptoms of chronic lung disease. Learn the names of any medications given. Learn how they work and when they are taken. Some medications need a special device. This may be an inhaler or nebulizer. Know how to use these devices.

  • Oxygen therapy. This helps improve breathing. If oxygen is needed, make sure all safety guidelines are followed.

  • Pulmonary rehabilitation (rehab). This trains patients on topics such as exercise, emotional support, and managing symptoms. Team members often include doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists, and physical therapists. When able, attend sessions with your loved one.

  • Nutrition therapy. Patients may benefit from dietary changes to help manage chronic lung disease. Nutritionists are often involved in identifying changes that may be helpful.

When to Call the Doctor

Prepare an action plan with your loved one for when to call the doctor. Have emergency telephone numbers ready. The following are signs that there may be a problem:

  • Increased shortness of breath, wheezing, or coughing

  • Mucus that has increased in amount, has changed color, or is bloody

  • Tightness in the chest that won’t go away

  • A fever or chills

  • Increased fatigue

 

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