COPD and Related Depression – Not Just the Blues

I often like to reprint useful articles I have found and the National Care Planning Institute authorizes reprints, so please feel free to pass on this article about COPD and related depression to anyone you know who may be affected by COPD.  And as always, if you need referrals to caring practitioners who can help you sort out the promises from the reality, please contact me.


Helping Your Elderly Parent with COPD Related Depression

Experts say that over a million people in the United States have
chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). It is a chronic lung
condition that includes bronchitis, emphysema or both.

COPD affects the airways and air sacs within the lungs, which
makes breathing difficult and can result in a person becoming less
active over time. An elderly person who has COPD will easily become
depressed, when dealing not only with breathing difficulties but other
age related problems.

One example of COPD related depression is Martin, age 72. Martin
had lived a busy lifestyle, playing golf, volunteering at the community
center and working in his garden. Diagnosed with COPD six months
previous, and uncertain how to mange his breathing difficulty and new
medications, Martin stopped all his activities. Giving up the things he
loved to do and sitting more at home along with improper diet, he became
a victim to depression.

Martin’s son Anthony realized that his father could not handle
his new situation and depression alone. A trip together to Martin's
physician began the steps to dissipating the depression and enabling
Martin to return to his social life.

Anthony received instructions about his father’s medications from
the doctor and how they were to be used and consequently could help his
father with medication reminders.

The most common types of daily COPD medicines are:

  • Inhaler for daily maintenance – Bronchodilators help relax the
    muscles around the lungs’ breathing tubes. This reduces shortness of
    breath and makes breathing easier.
  • Steroids – Corticosteroids, taken in pill form or inhaler
    reduce swelling in breathing tubes to quickly make breathing easier. Not
    commonly for prolong use.
  • Oxygen Treatment – Severe COPD will reduce your lungs’ ability
    to put oxygen into your blood to be carried throughout your body.
    Martin’s oxygen level was measured to determine if he would need
    prescribed oxygen therapy. Oxygen is usually prescribed if the oxygen in
    the blood is low during sleep, exercise, or while not active. A
    respiratory therapist from an oxygen supply company or home health
    service can help with learning how to use oxygen.

An important factor in Martin’s depression and COPD management was his diet.

“A healthy diet can play an important role in the management and treatment of COPD.
Finding the right diet can be tricky for people with
chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), since they need to eat a
healthy diet and maintain their optimal weight to keep COPD symptoms in
check.” )Krisha McCoy, MS, Lindsey Marcellin, MD, MPH)

Maintaining the right nutrition and
taking vitamins not only keeps the body healthy but heals the mind,
providing emotional well being. Fad diets or extreme dieting are not
appropriate for COPD patients. Extreme weight loss can be as much a
hazard as being overweight. A home care nutritionist can help establish a
healthy menu and diet plan.

With medication and diet under control the final steps to
overcoming Martin’s depression were to return to his daily activities.
With COPD, an elderly person is more hesitant to leave home, especially
if that person's breathing capacity is not as it used to be. There is a
lot of available mobility support for the elderly with small portable
oxygen units, walkers, electric scooters and other supportive equipment
to help these disabled people move about in the community.

With the help of mobile services and his son at his side to start
with, Martin returned to the golf course and community activities. His
new diet and return to previous activity helped Martin overcome his
symptoms of depression.

Studies show that the intervention of family and friends in
helping and supporting elderly people with COPD results in a decrease of
depression and a healthier outcome for the patient.

The Oxford Journals Medicine and Ageing states

“It is also worth exploring how family and friends may be
involved in supporting the patient and to encourage social interaction.
Educating the spouse, family members and friends about depression may
help them to understand the consequences of the disease and to develop
coping strategies and in turn may reduce the likelihood of isolation. A
very recent study that investigated the benefits of emotional support by
family and friends and of spiritual beliefs in patients with major
depression showed that those with higher perceived emotional support had
better outcomes.” (Oxford Journals Medicine Age and Ageing Volume 35,
Number 5)

If you are helping an elder parent with COPD
related depression there are community and professional services to help
you. Start with your parent’s physician. You can also find resources
for oxygen therapy, homecare respiratory treatment, home nursing, home
medical equipment and mobile services.

The National Care Planning Council promotes eldercare resources and lists eldercare services throughout the United States.

4 thoughts on “COPD and Related Depression – Not Just the Blues

  1. Bill Cockburn (Aged 83 years) says:

    Why is depression related to COPD? In Canada we are advised of the increase of seniors particularly in Coastal British Columbia and yet
    the number of physicians involved in geriatrics are few and far between?

  2. I am reading your blog for the first time and I must say your approach is different. What sets bloggers apart is how they connect to their readers; you really connected with me. Great post!

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