COPD care

It’s estimated that around 3 million in the UK people may have Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). However, the majority of these will go undiagnosed. This is likely due to a lack of awareness around the symptoms of the condition, with people often mistaking them for something else.

Quick overview

COPD is Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease – it causes obstructed airflow from the lungs.

COPD is a collective term given to a group of lung conditions which cause difficulty breathing.

There is no cure for COPD but there are specific treatments and care that can make living with the condition easier.

COPD is not one condition, but instead a group of lung conditions which are, for the most part, caused by smoking. It mainly affects adults from middle age – although it does not discriminate. 

It’s important that people who believe they may have COPD seek a diagnosis. Even though  it’s a progressive condition, there are treatments and care options available which mean people can continue to live a normal and independent life. 

A diagnosis helps not only with management of the condition and its symptoms, but can also slow progression and prevent complications.

What is COPD?

COPD refers to a group of lung conditions.The most common  – which you have likely heard of – are emphysema and chronic bronchitis.

Those who have COPD will often have both emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Both of these conditions have their own individual symptoms and causes but are  generally caused by smoking tobacco.

COPD usually develops over a long period of time – and is caused by long-term exposure to chemical irritants (such as tobacco). It can also take a substantial period  to diagnose, through a series of blood and lung function tests.

Whilst there’s no cure for COPD, there are treatments which people can have to improve their quality of life. It’s important that if you or a loved one believes they may have COPD to see a medical professional, as undiagnosed COPD can lead to the condition progressing quicker and a range of complications such as heart disease.

What are the symptoms of COPD?

COPD can be characterised as making breathing much more difficult – this is the main symptom of the condition, but some others include:

  • Breathlessness
  • Wheezing and a chesty cough with phlegm
  • Fatigue and weight loss
  • Frequent colds
  • Chest tightness


If any of the following occur, you should look to seek urgent medical attention:

  • Trouble catching your breath
  • Blue fingernails or lips
  • Confusion or a racing heartbeat
  • Persistent chest infections

COPD is a progressive condition and therefore these symptoms will worsen over time, making daily activities increasingly difficult. However, treatment can help to slow the progression of these symptoms.

As COPD progresses other symptoms may appear such as:

Those living with COPD will often find they get ‘flare ups’ of symptoms sometimes multiple times a year when symptoms will appear worse – often in wintertime.

Getting the annual flu vaccine

As those living with COPD are more susceptible to developing pneumonia and chest infections they are advised to have the annual flu vaccine.

What are the common forms of COPD?

In some instances, COPD may be graded depending on how it has progressed from person to person. One grading system follows the pattern of:

Grade 1: Mild

Grade 2: Moderate

Grade 3: Severe

Grade 4: Very Severe

As mentioned, COPD refers to a group of lung conditions – emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Most people with COPD will have both of these conditions.

This grading system is based on a breathing test which takes into account the amount of air you can breathe out. As COPD progresses to the severe and very severe levels it can lead to vulnerability to further conditions and complications such as:

  • Heart problems
  • High blood pressure
  • Lung cancer
  • Depression and anxiety

Because of the further complications that can come alongside the progression of COPD, it is important to get a diagnosis in order to start with treatments, lifestyle changes and consider care options in order to live to the fullest and prevent complications as much as possible.

How to care for COPD

Whilst there is no cure for COPD, there are various treatment and care options which can help those with the condition continue to live a fulfilling life and, in some instances, slow the progression of the condition.

Some of the treatments for COPD include:

  • Lifestyle changes, such as stopping smoking and/or changing your diet
  • Inhalers and medication
  • Surgery or lung transplant in very severe circumstances
  • Pulmonary rehabilitation, which is a specialised programme of exercise along with education.

For more information on treatments available for COPD, the NHS have outlined a range of options.

Care options

In addition to the treatments outlined above, having the right care and support is essential in living with conditions such as COPD. Whilst you or your loved one may live a long fulfilling life with COPD, having extra care and support especially as the condition progresses can have a positive impact.

As with any elderly care, the following options are available to you:

  • Residential care home
  • Nursing care home
  • Assisted living
  • Live-in care
  • Domiciliary care
  • 24-hour care

The type of care you chose may depend on the progression of your COPD. For many residential care or assisted living may be enough support – with activities and meals arranged for you. However, as the condition progresses and changes, nursing care may be required.

Live-in care provides an alternative to a residential care home and can be adapted as the condition progresses. Where domiciliary or visiting care only allows a person a certain number of visits per day, live-in care ensures a professional carer is available for support around the clock.

A live-in carer would be able to provide a person living with COPD with the necessary support they need when it comes to day-to-day tasks, errands, housekeeping, meal prep and even pet care. In addition to this, as the condition progresses more complex care needs can be met.

How can Elder help with COPD care?

Elder are able to provide live-in care for a range of complex conditions, including COPD. Our professional caregivers are able to offer support for complex conditions and care requirements – and our matching service ensures you get matched with a carer who is not only highly qualified but also compliments your own personality.

From day-to-housekeeping, cooking, cleaning and supporting with personal care our live-in carers are available for around the clock support. For more complex needs, they can support treatment plans and encourage the continuation of medication schedules.

For those with more complex care needs – associated with the progression of COPD Elder are also able to provide 24-hour care which involves two live-in carers and means there will be someone available 24/7 to assist with various care needs.

Read more about COPD care