COPD in Nursing Homes for Seniors

What is COPD, Symptoms of COPD, how is COPD diagnosis and the treatment options for those diagnosed with COPD?

What is COPD?

COPD affects your lung’s ability to take air in and then fully release the air taken in.  It is a disease that makes it very difficult to breathe.  It usually is caused by damage to your lungs over many years, most likely from smoking.

The airways in your lungs become partially blocked thereby making it difficult for you to breathe. The poor airflow is due to the breakdown of your lung tissue.  

When healthy lungs inhale, they are able to release that air fully from the lungs.  People who suffer from COPD cannot release all the inhaled air thereby creating residual air in the lungs left by their inability to exhale completely.  When the lungs inhale again the new air comes into an already partially filled lung, there by causing the individual a feeling of not being able to catch their breath.  

COPD causes increased damage to your lungs.  There is no “cure” for COPD but there are treatments that can help the daily symptoms and delay the progression of the disease.  


  1. Persistent/chronic cough over an extended period of time.
  2. Difficulty/shortness of breath with/without exertion.
  3. Mucus that is expelled during coughing spells.
  4. Physical weakness when trying to keep up with daily chores/hygiene or family outings.
  5. Weight loss.

How is COPD Diagnosed?

COPD is often under diagnosed or miss diagnosed in the Senior population.  Often the Seniors believe that shortness of breath is just another aging factor they have to put up with.  

Smoking is the main cause of COPD.  Other contributing factors are genetics, breathing air pollution, second-hand smoke and chemical fumes over an extend period of time.

To diagnosis COPD you will need to have your primary physician examine you. They will:

  1. Listen to your lungs.
  2. Explore your past health history.
  3. Evaluate past lung infections.
  4. Smoking history.
  5. They will have you perform breathing tests.
  6. They will explore with you if you could have been exposed to anything that would have irritated your lungs.
  7. Chest X-rays and other tests may be performed to assess the progression/existence of COPD.

Treatment Options for Seniors

  1. Stop smoking, if you smoke, immediately!
  2. Receive a flu shot every year and a pneumonia shot as advised by your physician (usually every 3-5 years).
  3. Reduce environmental exposure to air pollution.
  4. The use of inhalers and medications.
  5. The use of an additional oxygen supply.
  6. Exercise as often as possible to keep the body as strong/resilient as possible.
  7. A healthy diet is a must!  If you notice a loss of weight have your physician recommend or refer you to a dietitian or nutritionist.
  8. Surgery (extreme cases).