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What every CNA needs to know about COPD

CNAs taking care of clients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) need to understand the condition as well as the patient does.

(COPD) is long-term blockage of air movement in the lungs. It  usually includes a combination of emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Clients with COPD may have either emphysema or bronchitis, but most people with COPD have both.

What are the Causes of COPD
Although the most common cause of COPD is cigarette smoking. Other causes may include:

  • Working in an environment where you may inhale in dust, chemicals and coal dust
  • Indoor air pollution and heating in poorly ventilated homes
  • Secondhand smoke
  • Childhood lung infections
  • 2% of cases are inherited

Certified nursing assistants caring for patients with COPD can be very challenging. Many of these patients have limited ability to assist themselves independently. Due to the fact that even a small amount of physical exertion can be impossible, the amount of activities they can perform is severely limited.

Measures that CNAs can take to help residents suffering from COPD:

  • Instruct clients to wait at least an hour after eating to participate in physical activity. Digestion draws blood, along with oxygen, away from muscles, leaving the body less able to cope with increased physical demands.
  • Clients should not be rushed and able to pace themselves during any physical activity
  • During any physical activity clients should be instructed to inhale deeply and exhale slowly
  • Suggest residents use a bath stool if they find showers and baths too tiring.
  • Clients should avoid clothing that restrict the chest and abdominal expansion, including tight belts, and bras.

CNAs should notify then charge nurse when a patient with COPD is eating poorly, doesn’t want to exercise, or becomes more short of breath than usual when performing his/her activities of daily living.

As a nurse aide you are caring for a patient with COPD, you should notify your Nurse supervisor immediately when:

  • The patient has a fever.
  • The affected individual complains of or shows symptoms of  difficulties of breathing .
  • The patient has tachypnea.
  • The patient’s skin is pale or blue.