Mobility Devices For Elderly With COPD

copd patient with doctor

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a lower respiratory illness that affects nearly 65 million people worldwide. It’s primarily caused by cigarette smoking and it develops slowly over the course of many years leading to symptoms like breathlessness, chest pain, and a chronic cough.

COPD is known for being a debilitating condition meaning people who contract it will experience a decline in their ability to get around. For example, someone with COPD may become breathless more easily performing daily activities like making the bed or taking a shower. While it is possible to treat COPD with things like oxygen therapy, a refined diet, and pulmonary rehabilitation, it is a progressive disease meaning symptoms usually get worse over time instead of better. 

In order for COPD patients to maintain their independence, it’s crucial that they have a long-term mobility plan. Making use of mobility aids like walkers, wheelchairs, or electric scooters can enable COPD patients to thrive on their own without the fear of experiencing a fall and being admitted to the hospital.

Whether you or a loved one has COPD, the following guide will help you better understand the mobility aid options available to you. If you have any specific questions or concerns about COPD, be sure to address them with your doctor before making any changes to your treatment plan.

Rolling Walkers

Chances are when you think of mobility aids you think of a cane. Canes are affordable, easy to carry, and they can be a great way to prevent falls and maintain stability while walking. Unfortunately, canes tend to be a poor option for many COPD patients because they don’t account for the unique barriers that these people must overcome.

The vast majority of COPD patients are on supplemental oxygen. What this means is that they need to carry around a medical oxygen device such as an oxygen tank, liquid oxygen tank, or portable oxygen concentrator that will provide their lungs with the oxygen they need to stay healthy.

Regardless of the type of oxygen device you or your loved one is using, it’s imperative that you have an easy way of transporting it. Rolling walkers or “rollators” as they’re often called, tend to be the best option for COPD patients, because they have seats and baskets where you can place your oxygen device while you’re walking. This takes the weight off your shoulders and back and even gives you a place to sit and rest when you’re not on the move.

Traditional walkers are another mobility aid that should be avoided if you have COPD because they don’t have a place to store an oxygen device. What’s more, you have to pick them up rather than rolling them which can get exhausting. Using a walker requires the use of both hands so you wouldn’t have the option to transport your oxygen device with a rolling cart.

Wheelchairs

Wheelchairs are an option that may be suitable for people with more advanced stages of COPD. The most notable benefit of using a wheelchair instead of a walker is that you will get to sit down. If you believe that your COPD has reached a point where it’s unsafe for you to walk, wheelchairs may be your safest option. Typically, COPD patients will sling their oxygen device over the back of the chair, ensuring that it’s secure and that there is no slack in the oxygen tubing so that it won’t get caught in the wheels.

There are many different types of wheelchairs out there, so take some time to research them and determine which one is best for you. If you have trouble getting around in a standard wheelchair, you may want to opt for a lightweight or ultra-lightweight wheelchair which can be much easier to manage especially when you don’t have a friend or loved one nearby to push you around.  

Electric or “power” wheelchairs are another option to consider. Rather than having to push yourself around like you would on a manual wheelchair, electric wheelchairs do all the work for you. The downside to these wheelchairs is that they can be expensive and you’re less likely to get Medicare or other health insurance companies to help you pay for one. Before purchasing an electric wheelchair, contact your local medical equipment company who can discuss your options and ensure that you use the device safely. 

Electric Scooters

Electric scooters are similar to electric wheelchairs, but they have a few notable differences. The biggest difference is that electric scooters are controlled using handlebars and electric wheelchairs are controlled using a joystick. Motorized wheelchairs also tend to have better maneuverability making them great for indoor environments. However, the one you choose will largely be up to your personal preference. The most important thing to consider if you have COPD is how much storage space you will have to store your oxygen device. When you get in touch with a mobility equipment company, make sure they are aware of your needs. 

Stairlifts

A stairlift is a mobility device that makes it easy to get up and down a set of stairs in your home. If you have experienced falls in the past, stairlifts are a great option for renewing your sense of safety and security in your own home. There are two components to a stairlift: a rail that runs up the side of the staircase and a motorized chair that carries you up the rail. Stairlifts are incredibly easy to use and they’re extremely reliable.

There are many different models of stairlifts with different features, so you should speak with an expert to determine which one would be best for you. Believe it or not, stairlifts can be installed in most homes regardless of the shape of the staircase or how long the flight of stairs is. There are even stairlifts that are designed to be used outdoors meaning nothing is off-limits. Most stairlifts can be installed within a matter of hours and it won’t damage your home in any way.   

Conclusion

COPD is a debilitating condition that can lead to chronic breathlessness, fatigue, and muscle weakness. However, by choosing the right mobility aids for your lifestyle, you’ll be able to live more independently than you ever thought possible. Rolling walkers and wheelchairs are great for getting you out of the home, but you should not rule out in-home mobility aids like stairlifts as well.

Most importantly, you should do your research before making any final decisions. Studies have shown that COPD is one of the chronic conditions with the highest prevalence of falls, so mobility aids can be life-changing products. If you have any further questions or concerns about mobility issues surrounding COPD be sure to address them with your doctor or pulmonologist. 

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