Emphysema affects about 3.5 million people in the United States and, according to the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, was responsible for more than 7,000 deaths in 2014. Emphysema is a condition that affects the lungs and makes it difficult to breathe. When a person has emphysema, the air sacs, or alveoli, in their lungs are damaged. As time goes on, the walls inside the air sacs break down making the spaces for air larger. This means that there are fewer surfaces in the lungs to absorb oxygen, reducing the amount of oxygen that is able to get into the bloodstream. The damaged air sacs trap the used air that a person breathes in so that it is not exhaled. When this happens, there is less room for fresh air to enter into the lungs. The result is a shortness of breath.
Most people who have emphysema also suffer from chronic bronchitis, making the condition even more difficult to manage. Bronchitis is an inflammation of the bronchial tubes, which are responsible for carrying air into the lungs. People with chronic bronchitis usually have a cough that does not go away.
What Causes Emphysema?
The number one cause of emphysema is cigarette smoking, which is responsible for about 90 percent of emphysema cases. Most people who develop emphysema as a result of smoking will begin to experience symptoms between 40 to 60 years of age. If your parent currently smokes, quitting could reduce their risk of getting emphysema. If your parent already has emphysema and smokes, quitting can help reduce symptoms and keep the condition from worsening.
Emphysema can also be caused by other air-borne irritants that are breathed in, such as:
- Air pollution.
- Chemicals and dust, such as those that might be encountered in certain professions.
- Marijuana smoke.
- Other forms of tobacco smoke, like cigar and pipe smoke.
- Secondhand smoke.
How Can a Senior Care Provider Help?
If your parent has been diagnosed with emphysema, a senior care provider can help to manage the symptoms. For example, a senior care provider can help your parent through the difficult summer months during which emphysema symptoms may be worse due to hot and humid weather. Some of the things a senior care provider can do to help are:
- Encouraging your parent to drink more water, which helps the body to regulate temperature better and reduces the need for excess oxygen needed for cooling.
- Reminding your parent to take prescribed medications.
- Assisting your parent with tasks that may be difficult due to breathing problems.
- Monitoring pollen levels and air pollution alerts so that your parent stays indoors more on those days when irritant levels are higher.
Hiring a senior care provider to provide at-home care for your parent with emphysema can also help ease your concerns about the safety and well-being of your mom or dad. Knowing that someone is checking in on your parent throughout the day can allow you to take care of your other responsibilities without having to worry about your parent.
If you or an aging loved one are considering hiring senior care in Cranford, NJ, call the caring staff at Helping Hands Home Care today at 908-418-4299. Providing Home Care Services in all of Northern and Central NJ, including Clark, Westfield, Cranford, Scotch Plains, Rahway, Linden, Summit, Edison, Elizabeth, Mountainside and the surrounding areas.