No matter what way you look at it, living with COPD is a challenge. It makes it difficult to breathe, difficult to stay active, and leads to physical decline that makes it difficult to do all kinds of everyday activities.
While treatment, exercise, and healthy habits can slow down progression of the disease, it cannot stop it altogether. COPD patients inevitably start losing a certain degree of strength and mobility, which makes daily life even more of a struggle.
It certainly doesn't help that fatigue and muscle weakness are also common symptoms of COPD, even in the earlier stages of the disease. This can make certain basic activities difficult to do at times, even if you are still physically able.
Because of this, people with COPD often struggle to do daily tasks like cleaning, laundry, and grocery shopping. But the good news is, with a little planning and creativity, you can make these kinds of activities much easier to do. There are plenty of ways you can adjust your daily routine to conserve energy and there are a myriad of products and techniques you can use to simplify tasks.
In this article we're going to help you learn how to streamline tasks and utilize a variety of products and techniques designed to help people with limited strength and mobility. We'll show you how to simplify daily chores and activities, use short-cuts and tools to save time, and how to utilize a variety of methods and advice to conserve energy doing everyday tasks.
If you have COPD, then you know how hard it can be to keep up with everything in your life when your symptoms are bad and your body is weakened. It's times like these that you'll want to have every effort- and time-saving technique at the ready to help you keep yourself and your life going, even when it's difficult.
How to Save Energy on Daily Tasks if You Have COPD
Some COPD patients feel so overwhelmed by activities that require exertion that they stop doing them and become sedentary. However, this only makes their problems and symptoms worse, and inevitably leads to further loss of physical strength and independence.
That's why it's so important to seek out solutions and helpful tools that can help you better manage your everyday life with COPD. Continue reading for a variety of practical tips, tools, and techniques for making daily tasks and responsibilities less taxing.
Tips and Techniques: Practical Solutions for Everyday Tasks for People with COPD
In this section, we'll give you advice for streamlining and simplifying all the basic activities and responsibilities you have to tackle during the week. We'll show you how to break out of inefficient routines and how to use smart solutions to reduce the amount of time and effort you spend on everyday tasks.
Organize Your Closet or Wardrobe
Just managing clothes and linens alone can take a significant amount of your time and effort throughout the week. Between rifling through your wardrobe for the right outfit, doing laundry, putting clothes away, and more, you probably have to spend more time fussing over your clothes than you'd like.
One way to streamline your clothes-managing process is to develop a clear, simple, and easy-to-use storage and organization system for your clothes. Messes and inefficiencies in how you fold and store your clothes eat away at your time and energy stores, while organization ensures that putting away laundry and dressing is as quick and hassle-free as possible.
First, think about where you keep your clothes. Whether you have a wardrobe, clothing chest, or a system of shelves and racks in your closet, ask yourself the following questions: Does your current system have a place for all the different clothes you own, and is it easy to remember? Do you find yourself having to bend down often when getting clothes out or putting them away?
If your current clothing storage system causes you strain, it might be time to reorganize. You'll find it makes dressing much simpler when your clothes are easy to access and everything has a place.
Here are a few tips for streamlining how you store and organize your clothes.
Put Everything Within Reach
Reduce strain from retrieving and putting away your clothes by making sure they are all kept in easy-to-reach spots. Don't put clothes that you wear often in shelves or drawers that are too tall to reach or so low that they require you to stoop.
You might even consider getting some extra shelving or cabinetry for your bedroom or closet to help keep your clothes in easy reach. You can also explore other storage options, such as over-the-door shoe organizers or cubbies you can hang from your clothes rack.
Try Hangers Instead of Folding Your Clothes
Many people find that slipping their clothes onto hangers and placing them on a rack takes less effort than folding and stacking all their clothes. This method also makes it easier to search through your clothes without ending up with a wrinkled mess.
It's easier to see the colors, designs, and rifle through your options when your clothes are hung up rather than packed into drawers. It also makes them simpler to organize and saves you time folding.
Fix Broken Dressers and Wardrobes
If you have any stubborn drawers or wardrobe cabinets that get stuck and are difficult to use, it's probably time to get them repaired or replaced. In many cases, there are simple fixes that you can do yourself with a hardware kit, or you can ask a family member or hire a handyman to do it for you.
Decide On an Organization System, Then Stick With It
If you separate your clothes by type and function, it will save you time and effort when you go to get dressed. If your t-shirts, dress shirts, jeans, slacks, and pajamas all have their own, separate places, you'll be able to find the right clothes in no time no matter the occasion.
It also helps to rotate out your clothes every season to save time and space. That way, you don't have to work around your winter jackets and sweaters while looking for an outfit in the summer.
Carefully Plan Your Meals and Shopping Trips
There's almost nothing as frustrating as getting home from the grocery store only to find that you've forgotten the milk and eggs. That's why planning your meals and shopping trips ahead of time can be a huge time- and effort-saver.
Make sure you always have a complete list of everything you need before you head out to the store, and try to organize your list according to where items are located. To do this, you'll also need to plan ahead your meals for the week, so you know exactly what ingredients you need.
Try to plan your grocery trips for days when you know you'll have the time and won't be too worn out from other activities. Try to always get everything you need in a single trip so you don't end up without critical ingredients when you go to make meals. It's never fun to have to make a last-minute grocery trip when you're already breathless and fatigued after a long day.
Make Meals Ahead and Always Have Leftovers
If you're busy during the week or need to conserve your energy for other activities, it can help to get some of your cooking out of the way ahead of time. That could mean taking some time on the weekends to prepare the ingredients for your meals for the rest of the week or making large batches to freeze and eat at a later date.
When you cook, double the reward for your effort by making twice the amount of food. That way, you can store the leftovers in your fridge for another evening or freeze them for a delicious, home-made meal on a future lazy day.
Simplify Meal Prep
Often, washing and cutting up veggies and preparing ingredients is the most taxing part of making a meal. But there are lots of ways you can avoid having to spend hours chopping and mincing every week.
First of all, you can buy pre-washed and pre-cut cut fruits and veggies at the grocery store. These don't take any extra work or preparation and are already ready for snacking or cooking.
You can also use substitute canned ingredients for fresh ingredients in recipes, such as pre-minced garlic, canned corn, canned pineapple, or canned beans. Just be careful to check the label on any canned food you buy, and look for “low-sodium” or “no sodium added” varieties.
Finally, look for simple recipes with fewer ingredients so you have less to shop for and prepare. You can buy a variety of cookbooks specifically full of recipes with only three or four main ingredients, and you can find lots of simplified, low-effort recipes online, too.
Wear Low-Hassle Outfits
To reduce the amount of effort you spend dressing yourself and avoid clothing hassles during the day, try to simplify your wardrobe and choose comfortable clothes. Loose-fitting clothes, for instance, are not only much easier to put on, but also make it easier to move around during the day.
Avoid wearing too many layers that can be a pain both to put on and take off. Choose light, well-fitting clothes that won't weigh you down or get in the way.
If you are a woman, choose flat shoes instead of heels to save energy balancing and walking. Always avoid buying clothes that are too complicated or difficult to put on and take off with ease.
Simplify Your Laundry Routine
Laundry is often a dreaded chore; it can be tedious, time-consuming, and it often seems like the stream of dirty clothes never ends. That's why simplifying and streamlining your laundry routine can save you a lot of time, effort, and stress during the week.
Pare Down Your Wardrobe
The fewer clothes you own, the simpler and easier doing laundry will be. It means less sorting, less hassle, and more space in your closet.
Most of us own at least some pieces of clothing that we rarely or never wear. If you want to simplify your laundry routine, it's time to go through those clothes and find some you can get rid of.
In particular, consider tossing out things that have to be dry cleaned, hand washed, or require other special treatment. Handling delicate clothes takes extra time and effort that you can spare yourself by limiting your wardrobe to machine-washable items.
Limit the Weight You Carry
Hauling big, heavy laundry baskets around can be difficult when you're weak and breathless due to COPD. Luckily, all you have to do to lighten the load is to separate your laundry into smaller batches.
Whenever possible, split your clothes up into smaller loads that are lighter and easier to carry. It also helps to do laundry more frequently; you'll be more tempted to run larger loads to get it done quicker if you let your laundry pile up all week.
Be particularly careful with wet clothes, which can be surprisingly heavy to carry around. Instead of trying to carry a whole load of soggy clothes all together, use a smaller basket to haul them in smaller groups or carry them a few at a time.
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If you've always been the one who does your family's laundry, it can be a difficult habit to break. But if you suffer from COPD, it's important for other members of your household to understand that, as your disease progresses, you will need them to help you with these kinds of active tasks.
Try to have your children, spouse, or other family members do their own laundry, or at the very least haul their own clothes to and from the laundry room. Don't worry; most school age children are capable of learning to do their own laundry, and it's an easy task to delegate.
Simplify Your Home for Easier Cleaning
If you have lots of shelves, fabrics, and knick-knacks spread throughout your home, it might be time to simplify your décor. Having lots of items like these takes extra time and effort to clean, and they also trap dust and allergens that make your COPD symptoms worse.
Often, the best solution is to put away or get rid of as many unnecessary items and decorations as you can, keeping only what's meaningful and important to you. It can also help to remove curtains, rugs, and other fabrics to save yourself the hassle of cleaning them and keeping them dust-free.
If you have the opportunity, it can help to trade your carpet for hardwood floors or tile instead. Hard-surfaced floors are generally easier to clean and don't trap nearly as much dust, allergens, and grime as carpet does.
Use An Oxygen Concentrator for Simpler Oxygen Therapy
If you use supplemental oxygen for COPD, then you know that hauling around oxygen tanks with you wherever you go can be hard. They're heavy, unwieldy, exhausting to carry, and can feel like a constant burden weighing you down as you go about your life.
That's why you should consider investing in a portable oxygen concentrator, which acts as a portable oxygen supply that's much lighter and easy to carry than a portable oxygen tank. Oxygen concentrators don't need to be refilled or fitted with tanks; instead, they use electricity to turn regular, ambient air around you into concentrated oxygen you can breathe.
Portable oxygen concentrators can get pricey, but nothing beats them in terms of comfort, convenience, and portability. Most can run on battery or wall power and there are models designed to meet a variety of different oxygen patients' needs.
Split up Housework into Manageable Chunks
If you save up all your cleaning and chores until the end of the week, you'll probably feel too overwhelmed and exhausted to do it all. The same goes for daily cleaning responsibilities; saving all your chores for the end of the day wen you're the most worn down is a recipe for failure, especially if you suffer from COPD.
Instead, try to spread your cleaning tasks further apart throughout your days and weeks. Schedule a little bit of light and heavy cleaning activities every day, that way the hard stuff doesn't build up and have to be done all at once.
If there is a particular type of cleaning you find difficult or makes you feel particularly breathless, try to split it up into discrete steps that you can do one at a time. Instead of vacuuming the whole house at once, spread it over a few days, vacuuming one room, or one level of your home, per day.
Here's another example: Instead of saving up multiple loads of clothes for “laundry day,” do a single load on a few different days of the week. If you get tired from folding and lugging laundry baskets around, you can even split the work for a single load of laundry into chunks.
You can do your washing in the morning, dry your clothes in the afternoon, fold them in the evening, and put the clothes away before you go to bed. In the same way, try to do dishes as you use them instead of letting them pile up in the sink. Having to stand and wash a couple of plates and utensils usually isn't hard on its own, but doing an entire sink's worth of dishes will sap a lot more of your energy at once.
Products & Solutions: Tools to Simplify Everyday Tasks for People with COPD
In this section, we'll introduce you to products, services, and other practical tools you can use to save time and energy on everyday activities like shopping, dressing, and cleaning. You'll learn about a variety of services, commercial products, and creative solutions using everyday items that you can use to simplify your daily life.
Dressing requires a certain amount of balance and flexibility that might be difficult if you have limited mobility. COPD can make it difficult to bend and twist without feeling breathless, and it can help to find ways of dressing that don't require as much strain.
Luckily, there are a variety of tools designed to make dressing simpler and easier for people who have limited time or limited strength. Consider investing in some of the following items to help you save energy and effort when putting on your clothes and shoes.
Many people with limited mobility struggle to stoop and maneuver when putting on their shoes. A shoehorn, however, is a simple tool that allows you to slip on your shoes with ease, without having to bend over.
All you have to do is sit somewhere comfortable and slip the flat, metal part of the shoehorn against the back heel of your shoe. Then, simply slip your foot into the shoe, using the shoehorn to hold the heel in place until your foot is all the way inside. Then, remove the shoehorn and repeat with the other shoe.
When looking for a shoehorn to purchase, look for a shoehorn with a very long handle. This kind of shoe horn allows you to put on your shoes while standing up or sitting down without hardly any bending or hassle.
You can also use a shoehorn to take off your shoes, by using it to push them off from the heel. Click here to view a short instructional video on how to use a shoehorn.
Putting on socks poses the same problems as putting on shoes. If you're considering a shoehorn to make dressing easier, you should consider investing in an easy-pull sock aid as well.
A sock-pulling aid is shaped like a scoop made of flexible nylon, with straps attached to the back. To use it, you stretch the opening of your sock around the outside of the nylon scoop, which keeps it open just wide enough to slide your foot in.
Once you've pushed the first half of your foot into the sock, pull up on the straps attached to back of the sock aid, which will pull the rest of the sock up and around your foot. You can also use sock aids to put on stockings and pantyhose.
To aid in taking your socks off, hook a long-handled shoe-horn on the back of the heel of your sock and push it off. Click here for a short demonstration on how to use a sock aid.
Do you ever find yourself struggling with buttons or zippers? These clothing features can be frustrating enough for healthy adults at times, and it only gets worse as you age, lose strength, and struggle with COPD-related fatigue.
That's where a handy multi-tool called a pocket dresser can come in handy and save you a lot of time and hassle. Pocket dressers look similar to a pocket knife, but with button hooks and zipper picks instead of scissors and knives.
You can keep this handy tool in your closet, in your pocket, or on your keychain for anytime you need to reach a zipper or fasten your cuff links. Most contain tools in a few different sizes to work with a variety of button types and sizes.
Tools for Easier Bathing
Showering and bathing can be difficult, taxing activities for people with COPD who have limited mobility. Fortunately you can find many products designed to make washing yourself and sitting in the bath much easier and more comfortable.
The best way to have a relaxing, hassle-free bathing experience is to invest in a bath or shower chair. These are raised, waterproof chairs that allow you to sit comfortably throughout your entire shower.
Shower chairs also make it much easier to get into and out of the bath without losing your balance or slipping. There are many different types of shower chairs to fit all kinds of bathrooms and showers, and many have armrests, adjustable-height legs, and even padding for extra comfort.
Reaching that one, impossible spot in the center of your back is hard no matter who you are. But if you have COPD, many parts of your body might be difficult to reach without bending, twisting, and making yourself breathless.
That's why you should consider getting a long-handled loofah or sponge brush to help you reach the most difficult spots. It can help you wash your back, legs, neck, and other areas that you have to strain in order to reach.
Removable Shower Head
Removable, hand-held shower heads make rinsing yourself off in the shower a cinch. It lets you direct the water stream wherever you need it without having to turn or re-position your body. These are especially useful if you use a shower chair that makes it difficult to maneuver your body into the water stream.
Tools for Easier Cleaning
Keeping up with general housework and picking up can be difficult when you have COPD and feel breathless or run down. What's more, you are at risk of encountering dust, mold, and chemical fumes when you clean, which can make your COPD symptoms even worse.
Fortunately, there are a variety of different tools you can use and products you can buy to make cleaning simpler and take less effort. You can also use certain cleaners and face masks that make cleaning your home much less hazardous to your lungs.
Continue reading to learn about several practical tools you can use to make cleaning easier and safer with COPD.
As we've discussed, things that help you avoid bending and stooping can help you save a lot of effort and discomfort if you have COPD. That's why it's a good idea to keep a grabbing tool handy to help you pick stuff up off of the floor.
Knowing you can use a grabber instead of bending down to the floor can be a huge relief when you pick up around the house. Whether it's your socks, your pet's toy, or your keys you dropped on the floor, a grabber allows you to retrieve anything from the ground with a minimal amount of effort.
Try to find a grabber manufactured by a medical brand or one made out of a light, sturdy metal, like aluminum. Cheap, plastic grabbers tend to be flimsy, and may break or lack the firm grip the higher-quality grabber tools have. Click here to read a comparison of some of the best reacher grabber tools available on Amazon.com.
A Canister Vacuum
Rolling canister vacuums, also known as shop vacs, are special vacuums that have a canister for collecting dust and grime that rolls separately from the floor-cleaning tool. The canister is attached to a long, stretchy vacuum hose that you can attach nozzles or floor attachments to.
The benefit of a canister vacuum is that it is often lighter and easier to use than a regular stand-up vacuum. Instead of having to push the whole vacuum, you simply use the hose and floor attachment by hand, pulling the canister along behind you when needed.
You'll get the most utility out of your shop vac if you have mostly hardwood or tile floors. However, canister vacs can also be useful for cleaning up small messes and vacuuming spaces like your garage, deck, or kitchen, too.
Covering up your nose and mouth helps to protect your lungs from harmful cleaning chemicals, dust, mold, and other respiratory irritants you might be exposed to when you clean. You can use a regular surgical mask to filter out some particles, but an N-95 particle mask is a much more effective mask to use.
You can find these types of masks at most hardware stores or you can order them online. Just make sure they are certified by the FDA or the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). N-95 masks have to be correctly fitted to your face in order to work, however, so make sure you find one that is the right size and take the time to adjust it until it feels snug and secure.
Natural Cleaning Products
To avoid using harsh chemicals that could damage your lungs or cause your COPD symptoms to flare up, try using natural cleaning products that don't contain harsh chemicals like bleach and ammonia. Instead, try baking soda and vinegar-based cleaners that are much less noxious, yet still effective.
Always avoid commercial cleaners that are scented, include bleach, or contain volatile organic compounds (known as VOCs). You should never use aerosolized sanitizers or air fresheners, as they can irritate your lungs and trigger flare-ups or allergic reactions.
Often, warm water and soap is enough to clean up most surfaces, like your dishes, tables, and counters. For windows and glass, you can use a half-and-half mixture of vinegar and water for a great, streak-free shine.
You can even make your very own household cleaners using simple, safe ingredients at home. All you need is a few empty containers and spray bottles, some soap, water, vinegar, baking soda, and a little bit of ammonia.
Invest in Long-Handled Cleaning Tools
Getting cleaning supplies with long handles can significantly reduce the amount of bending and kneeling you have to do when you clean. This helps you do things like sweeping and dusting with the least amount of effort and time.
Make sure that all your cleaning tools, including your mop, broom, dustpan, and duster have long enough handles that you can use them without stooping or bending over at the waste. Use your long-handled duster to get hard-to-reach places like baseboards, high shelves, and cobweb-filled corners.
Tools for Easier Laundry
We've already discussed some techniques to make doing laundry simpler, so now lets look at some great tools and products that can help you save even more energy on the task. Continue reading to find out about a variety of practical item and products you can put to use as part of your new, simpler laundry routine.
Rolling Laundry Basket
Instead of lugging big baskets of laundry around your house by hand, take the weight off by getting a rolling laundry basket instead. Rolling baskets come in all different shapes and sizes, and you're bound to be able to find one that suits your needs.
Use a Stool for Unloading and Folding
When you have advanced COPD, standing for long periods of time can make you tired and breathless. It can be especially tiring when you do laundry, which requires you to have to bend and twist often.
Instead, set up a stool near your washer and dryer so you can sit while you sort, load, and fold your clothes. It will reduce the amount of bending and stooping you have to do and help you conserve energy as you work.
Front-Loading Washer and Dryer
Bending and reaching down into the washing machine to pull out soggy, heavy clothes can be exhausting and severely restrict your ability to breathe. If you can, think about investing in a front-loading washer that is significantly easier to load and unload.
Use a Laundry Service
If you have difficulty carrying heavy laundry baskets, it might be time to hand over the task to a professional. This can spare you a lot of time and effort, especially if your laundry room is located in place in your house that requires you to make frequent trips up and down the stairs.
There are many laundromats with bulk laundry washing and folding services that are very convenient and affordable. If you can work it into your budget, consider dropping off your laundry there instead of doing it yourself at home.
Tools for Easier Yard Work
Taking care of your lawn and garden gets more and more difficult as your COPD causes you lose the strength and mobility you once had. But in many cases, these are necessary responsibilities, and continuing to work in your yard has the benefits of extra exercise and time in the sun.
Fortunately, there are some useful products you can get that can help you continue to be able to mind your yard and garden even when you have limited mobility. Continue reading to learn about several practical tools and appliances that can help you save a significant amount of effort and energy on yard work.
Kneeling Pads for Gardening
If you don't have one already, you should invest in a kneeling pad or two if you have any garden beds to care of. They make it much more comfortable to kneel when seeding, weeding, or otherwise minding your plants.
Raised Garden Beds
Raised garden beds are great for reducing the amount of bending over and reaching you have to do when working on your garden. They are relatively easy to build out of a variety of inexpensive materials, or you can buy pre-made raised garden frames from garden or hardware stores.
With a raised bed, the top of the soil is raised about two feet off the ground, which means less bending and reaching. This makes planting and weeding significantly easier if you suffer from COPD-related breathlessness and fatigue.
If you find traditional garden beds difficult to work with, installing a couple of raised beds in your garden could allow you to continue to enjoy gardening as your strength and mobility declines.
Riding Lawn Mower
A riding lawnmower can be a huge help if you don't have the strength or energy to mow by hand. While they might be expensive, they can be cheaper than hiring a service to mow for you in the long run.
If you can't afford one new, take some time to search online or ask friends and relatives if they know of one that's available used. Riding lawnmowers are very common in some areas, and there is a good chance someone nearby is looking to sell off their used one at a discount.
Snow Blower and Leaf Blower
Raking leaves and shoveling snow can be exhausting, especially in hot or cold weather extremes. These kinds of taxing activities can drain your energy fast and leave you coughing and breathless if you have COPD.
Instead of raking and shoveling by hand, think about investing in a snow blower or leaf blower. One that's lightweight and high quality can save you a significant amount of time and effort when clearing unwanted debris from your yard. That way, you don't have to spend as much time out in the dry, winter air or the uncomfortable summer heat.
Don't Forget to Stay Active!
All of these effort- and energy-saving techniques are great for conserving your strength for what's most important and making difficult tasks more manageable. However, don't use them as an excuse to stop being active!
Household chores and everyday activities are actually great ways to use your muscles and stay moving throughout the day. Exercise is vital for maintaining your health and quality of life with COPD, and you should continue to stay up and active as much as you can manage.
As a final tip, try to continue doing as many daily activities as you can for as long as you can, as long as it's not impacting your health or your COPD treatment. Instead of avoiding every little thing that takes effort, think of household tasks and chores as opportunities to get your blood flowing and add a couple minutes of physical activity to your day.
However, as your disease progresses, you will eventually have to limit how much and what kinds of activities you do. Even if you are strong and capable now, you may need the solutions on this list in the future as you lose mobility and have a limited amount of energy to work with every day.
Techniques for making everyday tasks easier can be life savers for people with COPD, especially during flare-ups and in the later stages of the disease. But whether or not you suffer from debilitating symptoms or limited mobility right now, chances are you will need this advice at some point during the course of your disease.
Now that you know about a variety of products and techniques for simplifying your daily life, you'll be much more capable of keeping up with household chores and continuing daily activities in spite of your COPD symptoms. You'll be better able to conserve energy for the things in life that matter and you'll be better able to take care of yourself and maintain your independence as you lose your physical strength.
Without extra help, it's easy to fall behind on important responsibilities and lose the motivation you need to live a healthy, active life. But with these tips and techniques in your tool belt, you can take back control over your life and enjoy greater freedom and independence with COPD.