For many people, the toughest challenge is not controlling symptoms such as coughing and shortness of breath, but rather coping with the relentless march of the disease as it slowly encroaches on daily activities. Knowledgeable as your doctor and other health professionals are, they can't advise you on the many small but significant ways that COPD can impair your ability to function. This is the sort of advice you can get only from resourceful patients who have faced the same problems you have and found ways around them. The following are tips gleaned from COPD patients.
Bathing If you find a shower or bathtub difficult, try using a bath stool. For bathing, use a hand sprayer, which may be attached to the tub faucet or shower head. When excess humidity bothers you while bathing, leave the bathroom door open and use your bathroom exhaust fan. If you feel weak, don't take a bath or shower when you are alone. People who use oxygen may find that bathing is easier if they wear the apparatus during their bath or shower. The tubing can be draped over your shower curtain rod.
Grooming Shaving and putting on makeup is much easier if you have a low mirror so that you can sit down. Women should avoid elaborate hairdos that require tiresome setting and extended use of dryers. Try to avoid toiletries that are heavily perfumed; many patients find them irritating.
Dressing It's a bad idea to restrict chest and abdominal expansion; avoid belts, bras, and girdles that are tight. Men may find that suspenders are more comfortable than belts. Most women find that slacks and socks are much easier to put on than pantyhose. You can place your underwear inside your pants and put them on together. Wear slip-on shoes. Putting on any kind of shoe is much easier if you use a long shoehorn (12–28 inches). You may find that cotton underclothing is more comfortable than synthetic in both warm and cold climates.
Household gadgets One of the handiest gadgets is a pair of pickup tongs (these look like giant scissors) for retrieving things from hard-to-reach places. Most medical supply houses stock these. Another pickup device is a magnet on a short string. It's great for getting thumbtacks, hairpins, etc., that have fallen on the floor. If you must vacuum, use a machine with a disposable bag or a filtering method to keep dust from escaping. A small hand vacuum is easy to use for spot cleaning.
Emergency planning A matter of concern to those who live alone is how to get help quickly when needed. Make arrangements to have a relative or friend call at the same time every day to make sure you are okay. Consider buying a cordless phone and carrying it around with you. This way, if you run into trouble, you can call for help. Many companies offer monitoring services. They provide a panic button, worn on a chain around the neck, that can summon emergency help.
Traveling with oxygen People who use oxygen can travel to most places, but it requires some advance planning. Call your local oxygen supplier one to two weeks in advance to arrange for your oxygen supply while you are traveling. Your needs will vary according to your mode of transportation (see "Using oxygen on an airplane") and length of stay at your destination.
If traveling by air, book far in advance because airlines allow only a limited number of people traveling with oxygen per flight.
Take antiseptic hand-washing packets or gel to help avoid picking up bacterial or viral infections. Also wash hands with soap and water frequently.
If you are traveling to an area of high altitude, plan ahead for an oxygen supply at your location.