An exacerbation is a temporary worsening of COPD symptoms for your senior. This can be something that she experiences many times a year and there are a few different situations that can trigger an exacerbation. Talk to your senior’s doctor about what exacerbations mean for her.
Your Senior Is Experiencing Shortness of Breath More Often
Shortness of breath becomes a lot more common during an exacerbation. This happens because your senior’s pulmonary system is more overwhelmed than it usually is, which results in breathing difficulties. She might be relying on her rescue inhaler more or she might be resting more than usual. You may also be hearing more wheezing or rattling sounds when your senior is breathing.
She’s Not Sleeping Well
When your elderly family member is having trouble breathing, sleep may also be in short supply. Your senior may have a hard time getting comfortable, which can make sleeping difficult. But her body is also working harder to get oxygen into her system, which can leave her feeling too awake even if she’s sleepy. When she does sleep, she may not feel as rested when she wakes up again.
Your Senior Is Coughing More Frequently
Frequent coughing is something that people with COPD often experience. During an exacerbation, that coughing might increase even more. The reason your senior is coughing so much has to do with her body trying all the tricks in its arsenal to get more oxygen into her lungs. She might also notice that she’s yawning more, which is another oxygen-related reflex.
Your Senior Is Dealing with More Phlegm
Phlegm or mucus might be increasing during an exacerbation, too. Your elderly family member’s body creates mucus to help move irritants out of her lungs, but sometimes it works overtime. It’s important to pay attention to the phlegm itself, though. If it’s becoming thicker than usual and is changing colors, her doctor needs to take a closer look. This can be an early sign of a lung infection.
She’s Having Trouble Staying Focused or She’s Feeling Confused
When your elderly family member is having more trouble breathing, that affects her brain, too. Her brain needs oxygen in order to function and having a little less oxygen moving through her body can mean that she’s feeling more confused or she’s having trouble focusing on what’s going on around her.
Some of these signs can be subtle, but they’re important to watch out for. Your senior might benefit from having home care providers helping her more often. This is helpful not only in recognizing exacerbations, but also assisting her with routine tasks while she’s feeling under the weather.