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Senior Health: Coping with COPD

Sep 15, 2017 by Larry Morgan

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, affects more than 24 million Americans. The severity of the disease varies per patient, but it is progressive and very burdensome. It can make even the simplest tasks such as grocery shopping or talking a lap around the block nearly impossible. Many COPD patients have to wear and carry oxygen with them, too.

Better COPD management is needed both from provider and patient. Poor management can lead to hospitalization, to the point of being in ICU, on a ventilator, or worse.

A new plan called Seamless Transition and Exacerbation Prevention, or STEP, is trying to help all parties involved with COPD. The main steps of the plan are broken down as follows:

Care Focused On the Patient

You may be wondering, isn’t all patient care supposed to be this way? The answer is yes, it is, but most of them time, the patient themselves get put on the back burner. Their level of understanding of what’s going on, their involvement in their own treatment, and their overall lifestyle are hardly ever taken into consideration, which leads to ineffective care.

With the STEP program especially, researchers noted that patient-centered care led to less hospital readmissions. This means that patients are overall managing their COPD better than most of Americans. This is therefore the core principle of the STEP program.

Continuity of Care

Many readmissions are due to a breach in the continuum of care, and not just with COPD patients. The continuum of care is the concept of continuing communication and adequate treatment to the patient as they progress from place to place, such as from the hospital back to their home.

Many hospitals do not do home respiratory care visits, thus leading to a gap in care and a high chance of readmission. STEP’s goal for this aspect is to make sure patients are taken care of as they transition home, and that they have support for any major flare-ups after transitioning back. This can be accomplished by all of the patient’s healthcare providers maintaining communication and allocating treatment where necessary.

Teaching the Patient

Another large reason why COPD patients are continuously returning to the hospital is because they either forgot, didn’t pay attention to, or don't care about the information for home care they received upon discharge.

STEP stresses that patients need to play an active part in their own care – otherwise, nothing else will be worth the effort. Teaching patients about their disease, their unique treatment and the resources available to them is the best way to avoid more time in the hospital.

The Right Equipment

Unfortunately, sometimes COPD symptoms can only be alleviated with the help of specific machines. Most of the therapy these patients go through involve lung machines, and many of the medications they take are to be inhaled. Not knowing how to administer your own medication properly or use a certain piece of equipment when you need it the most can be an issue.

These researchers stress that while equipment won’t necessarily prevent hospital readmissions, they can promote a more active lifestyle, which is one of the greatest forms of therapy for COPD patients. Access to and learning how to use these machines can drastically improve the quality of life for those suffering from COPD.

The STEP program hopes that these tips will help those with COPD to better manage their disease and avoid more unnecessary (and costly) hospital visits. If you are interested in learning more about the plan or other up-and-coming COPD news, consult your physician.

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