If the person you care for has a lung condition, there may be times when breathing is a challenge. Start by noticing patterns: is there a time of day, type of activity, or emotional state that triggers the difficulty? Is the person sitting, lying, or standing? Consider these options:
- Remove dust and replace furnace filters frequently.
- Eliminate or reduce strong odors. Bleach, paint, perfume. They all exude chemical particles that can irritate the lungs.
- Raise the head of the bed. Lying flat makes it harder for some people to breathe.
- Institute a No Smoking policy. No secondhand smoke in the house. And, of course, the patient should not smoke.
- Find a better position. Sometimes it helps to sit up straight or brace elbows on a solid surface, such as the arms of a chair or a table.
- Turn on a fan or open a window.
- Add moisture. Consider a humidifier.
- Pace yourself. Plan the day so there are few activities, and time to rest in between. Even a shower counts as an activity.
- Guided imagery or deep-breathing exercises. These strategies can calm the anxiety that comes with not enough oxygen.
- Slow, focused breathing. Breathing slowly through pursed lips helps some. Counting to extend an exhale helps others.
Talk with the doctor
If these strategies don’t ease the difficulty, talk to the doctor. There are medications that can open the airways. There are also specific breathing exercises. Does your loved one like to sing? Believe it or not, joining a singing group might help. Or ask the doctor if there’s a “Second Wind” or “Better Breathers Club.” These support groups help people get appropriate exercise and provide opportunities to share tips about living with breathing limitations.