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,
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.
New York adopted the Family Health Care Decisions Act this spring, effective as of June 1, 2010. The New York State Bar Association just opened their own resource center as a place for anyone interested in learning more about this legislation to have a one-stop shop for information.
The article below says it "may" be helpful to contact an elder law attorney. I would argue that the elder law attorney should be contacted as soon as there is a diagnosis of dementia or any condition that may lead to long term disability and the inability to take care of yourself or a loved one. Too often families listen to non-legal professionals or attorneys who do not focus on elder law and spend tens of thousands of dollars before they finally contact a skilled elder law attorney. The myth continues that sound legal advice is too expensive. Please tell that to the daughter who cried last year after ravaging her father's IRA to pay for the nursing home care he was receiving; her financial advisor told her there was nothing else to do. Had she paid for a two-hour consultation and hired me a year earlier her father would have qualified for Medicaid months sooner and had over $80,000 more left in his IRA to pay for non-covered things to make his daily life better. Luckily his children pay for the "extras," things like regular haircuts, cable television and special food that are not covered under the nursing home daily rate or the $50 he is allowed to retain as a Medicaid recipient. Oh, and to add insult to injury, he now needs to pay federal income taxes because his income was too high last year due to the IRA distributions. Too expensive? Listening to their financial advisor was the costliest decision this hard-working family ever did. Elder law attorneys are here for a reason. We do not offer investment advice. Investment advisors should not offer Medicaid planning advice. The good advisors work with elder law attorneys as a team. If your advisor does not recommend that you see an elder law attorney, question why.
If you or a loved one are facing impending changes that could halt your independence, please contact me. You will walk out with information and referrals to local professionals who can help.
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New York Health Access is a fabulous new website put together through a collaboration of
The Empire Justice Center, the Legal Aid Society and Selfhelp Community
Services, Inc. The groups announced this new site recently and
included the following in their introductory letter:
As the economy continues to struggle, the website will be a
valuable resource for information about alternatives for New Yorkers who lose
health benefits or are no longer able to afford them. Postings include:
- information on eligibility,
enrollment, retention and navigation of New York State's public health
insurance programs – Medicaid, Family Health Plus and Child Health Plus;
- information on programs targeted
to senior citizens and individuals with disabilities who need assistance
accessing Medicaid benefits or paying for and supplementing Medicare
- information and resources for
uninsured, underinsured and other individuals facing medical debt.
Review any of the useful articles and links on the website. I think you'll agree what a wonderful endeavour this is. As always, please contact me for any of your specific legal issues.
The following article addresses some common themes regardless of where you and your family live- enjoy!
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