Emphysema is a type of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) where the air sacs in the lungs have become permanently damaged, reduce the lung capacity, and cannot be cured. This disease affects millions of seniors every year as it is often the result of years of smoking. However, non-smoking seniors can also develop emphysema.
Family caregivers that are not aware of the details of the disease may overlook the symptoms in their aging loved ones as some kind of temporary lung condition like influenza. They run the risk of not getting their elderly relative the medical help they need to feel better. Because emphysema is not curable and affects a senior’s ability to live on their own, family caregivers also need to address in-home care from a senior care provider.
These are a few of the basic frequently asked questions that family caregivers have about emphysema in the elderly:
Q: What is emphysema, exactly?
A: There are several chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases, of which emphysema is one. It describes the damaged condition of the little air sacs in the lungs, called alveoli. When the sacs are stretched, enlarged, or collapsed, they cannot gather up enough oxygen for the body. Over time, emphysema can contribute to major health problems due to oxygen-starved organs.
Q: What are the symptoms of emphysema in seniors?
A: The common symptoms in elderly adults include wheezing, chronic coughing, and shortness of breath, even when at rest. Other symptoms include tightness in the chest, loss of appetite, fatigue, and bluish lips or fingernails.
Q: What are the risk factors for emphysema in the elderly?
A: Long-term damage to the lungs is usually done by smoking. Other things that increase a person’s risk of emphysema include chronic asthma and bronchitis. Exposure to second-hand smoke, air pollution, dust, or airborne chemicals can also trigger respiratory issues that can lead to emphysema.
Q: How Can Doctors Help the Elderly with Emphysema?
A: With medication and rest, plus avoiding triggers for flare-ups, aging adults can minimize the symptoms of emphysema. Respiratory therapy is also valuable in teaching seniors how to breathe better and giving them solid information on what to do. Hiring senior care providers is important so that aging adults don’t have to overstress the lungs.
Q: Does hiring senior care providers help seniors live at home with emphysema?
A: Sapped of stamina and struggling for breath, aging adults usually cannot take care of themselves at home. Hiring senior care providers to do the basic tasks like meal prep, cleaning, laundry, and more can allow aging adults to take it easy. In addition to doing the daily tasks, senior care providers can be companions to the aging adults, and transport them to and from the doctor as needed.