For people with COPD, life is often filled with uncertainty: uncertainty about health, uncertainty about the future, and uncertainty about how bad your symptoms will be on a given day. That's why it's especially important for people with COPD have a safe, familiar place to retreat to when they need to get away from the stresses and inconveniences of the outside world.
For most people, that safe space is their home.
Home is one of the only places where you have the power to control your space and the environment that surrounds you. This is an advantage that you shouldn't take for granted—especially if you have a mobility-limiting condition like COPD.
When you're living with chronic disease and/or disability, the design of the space you live in can be a critical factor in your overall quality of life. It can mean the difference between being able to navigate your home comfortably and not being able to complete basic household tasks.
Unfortunately, many people with COPD never get to see their true potential because their home was never adapted to accommodate their COPD. Fortunately, making your home more COPD-friendly doesn't have to be a large or expensive project, regardless of the size or shape of the space.
Even small, simple changes—if made in the right places—can have a significant impact on your everyday life. That's we created this guide to show you how to make any space in your home more accessible, more functional, and more comfortable to live in with COPD.
We cover everything from how to arrange specific rooms to make household tasks less physically taxing to how you can use affordable gadgets and accessibility equipment to make everyday activities more convenient. No matter what kind of budget, time, or skill level you're working with, you can find an idea for something practical, simple, and meaningful you can do.
We'll also cover:
- How to spot problem areas and identify opportunities for improvement in your home
- How to organize your belongings for maximum efficiency and accessibility
- How to optimize your space to save energy and reduce breathlessness at home
- How to eliminate safety hazards and make it easier to move around your home
- How to choose furniture and appliances that require minimal effort and strain to use
- Inexpensive adaptive tools and gadgets to make everyday tasks easier to do with COPD.
Making Your Home a Refuge That Accommodates Your COPD Needs
Your home (or your private living space) is a special, sacred place, because it's one of the only environments you can adapt to fit your personal wants and needs. It's a place where you should feel capable, comfortable and safe—a refuge from the uncertainties of life and the expectations of the outside world.
Home is also where you should be able to live life the way you want to and do the things you love. It should empower you to be as independent as possible, and help you perform daily tasks in a way that's comfortable to you.
This is especially important if you COPD, which can have a significant impact on your mobility, endurance, and overall strength. Having a space that works with rather than against your physical limitations can make a radical difference in your daily life and your ability to live comfortably with COPD.
People with COPD often have special needs that others do not, such as the need to conserve energy, avoid lung irritants, or use supplemental oxygen during the day. These needs can significantly affect how you go about daily activities, but how much they limit your activities depends heavily on how well your living space is designed to accommodate those needs.
Because of this, people with COPD (and other chronic diseases) have more at stake—and more to consider—when arranging their living space. You not only have to think about what you need in the present, but also about how your physical needs abilities might change in the future; for example, when you have an exacerbation, or as your COPD progresses (causing further lung function decline).
Taking It Room by Room
Though we often think about our homes in abstract or aesthetic terms, at its core, a house is primarily a functional space. It's not just a place that you live in, it's a place made up of many distinct rooms and functional areas, each of which is designed for a specific purpose.
Because of this, each separate room or area in your home will have a different set of requirements for “optimal” design. That's why creating a luxurious home is all about creating optimized spaces, and why you have to consider each part of your living space as a separate part of the whole.
That's why, in this guide, we're going go through each room (or functional space) in the home one-by-one. This lets us focus on optimization with an emphasis on the kinds of tasks and activities that tend to be the most difficult for people with COPD.
In the following sections, you'll find a wide variety of tips, techniques, and ideas—both big and small—for how to make your home more comfortable, efficient, and COPD-friendly. Most of them utilize simple tools and straightforward techniques that anyone can pull off with minimal cost and difficulty.
We know that everyone has different preferences, abilities, and constraints to consider, so we did our best to include a little bit of something for everyone. And since each section in this guide addresses a different type of living area, you can easily skip around to find tips for whichever rooms you're most interested in.
Defining the Scope of Your Project
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As you begin working on your home, it's important to remember your end goal and what you're really trying to achieve: greater comfort, accessibility, and convenience in your home. Otherwise, it's easy to get caught up in unimportant details or end up working on a totally different project than the one you set out to do.
It's also important to consider the specific parameters of your home improvement project. Everyone has time, budget, and resource limitations, and these limitations will help you determine the scope of what you can and can't do.
Of course, there are also physical limitations to consider, like the amount of space you have to work with and the floor plan of your home. While some people can afford to make extensive renovations or move to a more accessible home, many people can't, which is why the focus of this guide is how to do the best you can with the space you already have.
However, it's important to be realistic about the things you can and can't change or control in your home. Doing so will help you get the most out of your efforts by directing your energy and resources toward the the things that will make the most difference.
Still, limitations don't have to be the end-all-be-all, and you don't have to let them discourage you or stop you in your tracks. Even when you're faced with unchangeable circumstances, you might still be able to get at least some of what you want, even if you have to go about it in a different way.
For example, if you live in a multi-level home, you might not be able to change the fact that you have to go up and down stairs. However, you can make your stairs easier to navigate, or organize your home in such a way that you don't have use the stairs as often.
Whenever you run in to snags or difficulties, try to take a step back and consider different approaches. That's the best thing about taking the initiative to improve your space on your own; you can be as creative and unconventional as you want to be, as long as the end results work for you.
Thinks to Keep Mind For Any Space
Starting any kind of home improvement project can be a daunting task, but you don't have to jump into it blind. Knowing some basic home design principles and organizational techniques can help guide you through a wide range of different projects in every area of your home.
Here are some tips to help you help you get started—and stay focused—no matter what part of your home you're working to improve:
- Start by identifying problem areas, clutter, and sources of inconvenience or strain.
- Prioritize the areas that get the most use and matter most to you.
- Pay close attention to how each room's design and furniture layout affects how you use and navigate the space.
- Arrange each area to facilitate the activities you do most often, or the activities that you struggle with most because of your COPD
- Organize things by category and function so you don't have similar items spread out (and likely forgotten) between multiple rooms.
- Minimize clutter by making space to store all of your belongings; as the old saying goes, there should be “a place for everything, and everything in its place.”
- In general, stick with simple solutions; complex designs and intricate organizational systems are difficult to pull off.
While the rest of this guide focuses on room-specific strategies, we'll continue to discuss these and other general organizing principles throughout this guide. That's why we recommend reading through all of the following sections, even if you only plan to work on a certain part of your home; you might find an idea or find inspiration in one section that can be adapted to a variety of different rooms.
Improving Your Home for COPD Room by Room
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Let's start by talking about the bathroom, a unique space that serves as a multi-functional hub for a variety of different hygiene and grooming activities. The bathroom plays a huge role in most people's morning and evening routines, and can even be a place for relaxation and respite during the day.
Unfortunately, bathrooms can also be difficult spaces to navigate (and tolerate) if you have COPD.
First, bathrooms tend to be full of mobility barriers like tight spaces, slick surfaces, and tall tub sides. Second, bathrooms tend to have more air quality issues than other places in the home due to their propensity to collect mold, trap excess humidity, and accumulate noxious cleaning product fumes.
Luckily, there are many ways to make your bathroom more accessible and keep the air inside it fresh. Mostly, it comes down to establishing proper ventilation, practical organization, and outfitting your bathroom with a few key features to mitigate safety and mobility concerns.
Because everyone uses the bathroom so often, it's important to make it a place that feels comfortable, functional, and safe. With some work, you can even turn it into a place you want to spend time in, which can open up new opportunities for pampering and self care.
Organizing Your Bathroom for More Practical Use
Bathrooms, like most frequently-used spaces in the home, are prone to clutter and disorganization. It's easy to end up with crowded cabinets full of disorganized bath and skincare products while everyday toiletries and medicine bottles pile up on the counter top.
This is especially true for small bathrooms that have limited storage space. That's why, in most cases, organizing and paring down all your bathroom belongings is the best place to start.
First, get everything out of your cabinets, drawers, and all the other nooks and crannies in your bathroom. Then, sort those items by priority: what do you and others in your household use every day, versus every week, down to those that you very seldom (or not at all).
Next, it's time to pare things down. Consider what actually needs to be in the bathroom, what would be better stored elsewhere, and what you wouldn't mind getting rid of altogether.
If you've whittled it down to the essentials but you still don't have enough room to store everything neatly, you might need to expand your bathroom storage capacity. There are plenty of ways to do this without having to add any permanent cabinets or shelving; for example, you could use cabinet organizers, over-the-door storage devices, or small, stackable plastic storage containers
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When you put all your belongings back, do it neatly and in order of importance, placing the most frequently-used items in the most convenient-to-reach places. This will ensure that you can access everyday items with the minimal amount of physical strain.
Make Your Shower a Safer and More Comfortable Place to Be
Showering is often a challenge for people with COPD, and many find it to be the most taxing part of their daily routine. When you combine the heat and humidity with physical strain of standing and washing, showering is a recipe for breathlessness if you don't have the right tools.
Luckily, you can make showering much more tolerable—and even pleasant—in just a few simple steps. First, you need to establish good ventilation in your bathroom, and then consider installing some basic (and relatively inexpensive) accessibility aids.
Ventilating your bathroom sucks away excess heat and humidity, making it easier to breathe while you bathe. It also helps to get rid of stagnant humidity after you're out of the shower, reducing the risk that air-polluting mold will grow.
It's also important to ventilate the bathroom when you clean it to protect your lungs from the harmful fumes that many cleaning products generate. This is especially important for small, enclosed bathroom spaces that tend to trap and concentrate noxious fumes.
There are many different ways to ventilate your bathroom, and the easiest by far is by using a proper ventilation fan, the kind that's usually installed in the ceiling and turns on with a switch. Alternatively, you can open up the windows and doors attached to the bathroom and help the airflow along using one or more fans.
Equipment that can help you improve your bathroom ventilation:
- A well-functioning ventilation fan that vents outdoors
- A window fan that adjusts to fit snugly in your window frame
- A standing fan or table fan to blow air out the windows and/or doors
Safe & Comfy Floors
Drips and splashes are inevitable in the bathroom, which—unless your bathroom is carpeted—leads to damp, slick floors. This can be a very dangerous fall risk, not to mention an uncomfortable inconvenience when you step into a cold puddle on the floor.
That's why, if your bathroom has hard flooring, it's a good idea to place a non-slip bath mat near the shower and/or sink. Just make sure you choose a mat that's not too bulky (to reduce the risk of tripping over the edges) and has a sufficiently grippy rubber backing to hold it firmly in place on the floor.
That said, you should never use throw rugs or traditional bath mats (that don't have non-slip backings), as they can significantly increase your risk of trips and falls. In fact, studies show that poorly-secured bath mats are one of the biggest causes of fall injuries in the home.
In addition to the safety benefits, a non-slip bath mat is an extremely simple and affordable way to add an extra bit of luxury to your bathroom. Even though it's a simple comfort, having a soft, warm mat to greet you in when you step out of the shower, or when you make a bare-footed trip to the bathroom in the middle of the night, is something that you can enjoy and appreciate every day.
Shower Accessibility Tools
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There are lots of different adaptive aids and equipment to help in the bathroom, and most are designed to make the bath and shower easier to use. They include shower chairs, handles, and bars to provide extra stability, as well as equipment that makes it easier to wash yourself when you bathe.
Here is a list of some of the most common and practical shower accessibility tools:
- In-shower handles and bars: these make it easier to stabilize yourself in the shower and reduces the risk of falling when you get in and out of the tub (avoid handles that use suction cups or other insecure methods of attaching to the wall).
- In-tub non-slip mat: this can help you get extra grip on the floor in the bathtub while providing a softer, more comfortable surface for your feet.
- Shower chair: this allows you sit while you shower, which not only helps you save energy (which reduces breathlessness), but also significantly reduces your risk of slipping on the slick floor.
- Removable, Hand-Held Shower Head: this type of shower head gives you full control over the water angle and flow, a must-have if you shower sitting down in a shower chair.
- Long-handled scrub brush: this can help you reach all areas of your body without having to strain or contort yourself.
- Tub Transfer Bench: this is a simple seat that forms a bridge over the edge of the tub so that you can easily sit and slide yourself over to get into the tub.
- Raised toilet seat or toilet safety frame: either or both of these are great solutions for those who struggle to get up and down from a sitting position, or get breathless doing so because of their COPD.
Addressing Mold and Other Air Quality Problems
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There are a number of causes of air quality problems in the bathroom, the main culprits being mold, strongly-scented products, and noxious cleaning fumes. Mold tends to be the most dangerous because it can hide in unseen places and continually release toxic spores that can damage your lungs.
It's important to check your bathroom for mold regularly, keeping an eye out for black spots or a musty, moldy smell. If you find mold, get it cleaned up immediately to prevent it from spreading or causing structural damage to floors, ceilings, and walls.
In most situations, it's best to let someone else do the cleaning; messing with mold tends to stir up the spores, which can be dangerous for sensitive lungs. Consider asking a friend or family member to help you take care of minor mold problems or hire a professional for bigger jobs.
You should also pay attention to what kinds of products you (and others in your household) use; do any of them make you cough, feel breathless, or otherwise irritate your lungs? Strong fragrances are a common COPD trigger, and many people find it easier to breathe when they use unscented and fragrance-free products in their home.
If your lungs are scent-sensitive, you should also avoid using air fresheners and aerosol spray products, especially in an enclosed bathroom space. You should also avoid using noxious cleaning products (opting instead for lung-safe alternatives) and make sure to let the bathroom air out after it's cleaned.
While the bedroom might not seem like a top-priority place for a re-design, your bedroom is actually one of the more important environments in the home. Your bedroom not only sets the stage for how you start and end your day, but it also plays a major role in your ability to get a good night's sleep.
This is especially important for people with COPD, who often experience difficulty getting to sleep and staying asleep at night. And while changing up your bedroom won't solve all of your sleeping problems, it can help you control certain COPD triggers and create an environment that's more conducive to sleep.
To do this, you need to consider ambient factors, like temperature and noise control, in addition to tangible factors like bedding, furniture layout, and décor. You might be surprised at how much a bit of optimization in the bedroom can improve your sleep and quality of life.
Making Your Bed More COPD-Friendly
If you're going to optimize anything in your bedroom, your actual bed is probably the best place to start. It's centerpiece of every bedroom and, arguably, the most important piece of furniture you own, since you spend hours lying in bed every single night.
Making your bed more comfortable starts with the mattress and bedding, both of which should be comfortable and suited to your temperature needs. If you tend to get hot at night, for example, you might want to avoid memory foam mattresses and thermal bedding that are more likely to make you overheat.
You should also make sure to wash your sheets and blankets often to get rid of dust, allergens, and other irritants that can accumulate in your bedding and aggravate your COPD. This is especially important if your lungs are very sensitive or you notice your COPD symptoms getting worse after you go to bed.
It's also important to have the right tools for good sleep posture, which often means having some extra pillows for support. Whether you prefer to lay on your back, side, or stomach, some extra cushioning in the right places can help you sleep more comfortably and keep your spine aligned correctly while you sleep.
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Some experts suggest that sleeping on your back with your head and chest slightly elevated is the best way to sleep if you have COPD. You can achieve this elevation by raising the head of your bed up by a few inches or simply propping up your body on some pillows or lying on a pillow wedge.
Sleeping in this position helps reduce the amount of body weight on your chest, which can make it easier to breathe. It also helps with mucus drainage so you're less likely to suffer from congestion or coughing while you're trying to sleep.
Here are some of the most useful items you can get to make your bed a better place to sleep with COPD:
- A foam pillow wedge: these large, triangle-shaped pillows are the most comfortable and convenient option for propping up your body in bed.
- Bed foot risers: while you can prop up your bed on something makeshift (like a block of wood), bed risers are a bit sturdier (and more aesthetically pleasing) since they're specifically designed to fit snugly under the feet of your bed.
- Hypo-allergenic sheets: using specially-designed hypo-allergenic bedding might reduce your respiratory symptoms if your lungs are hyper-sensitive to allergens and/or dust.
- Bed Rail: this rail goes right between your mattress and box springs and can provide some extra support and stability when you get in and out of your bed.
To learn more about how to get better sleep with COPD, check out the following guides:
- 13 Tips to Help You Get a Better Night's Sleep with COPD
- The Complete Guide to Sleeping with Supplemental Oxygen
- The Effects of Poor Sleep Quality on COPD Exacerbations
- How to Overcome Sleep Apnea and Other Sleep Disorders that Affect Your Breathing at Night
Cozying-up Your Bedroom
Often, a comfy bed isn't enough on its own to make a bedroom cozy. You also need to cultivate the right atmosphere—ideally one that facilitates relaxation and is free from stress.
Getting rid of clutter, for instance, can help your bedroom environment feel calmer and more inviting. Keeping things neat and tidy can also make it easier to unwind at bedtime, especially if you're the kind of person who tends to worry or feel anxious at night.
You should also strive to keep work and other sources of stress out of the bedroom completely; you don't want your to-do list to be the last thing you see before going to bed. Instead, fill your bedroom feel-good decorations and items that make you feel happy, cozy, and safe.
Improving Functional Layout
Having a tight and claustrophobic bedroom isn't pleasant, and it can even put you at risk for falls and stubbed toes at night. If possible, it's best to have a simple, open bedroom layout that's easy to navigate when you're half awake and in the dark.
Of course, you might not have a lot of bedroom layout options depending on the size of your bedroom and the furniture you already own. The most important thing, however, is to have enough walking room to get around comfortably, and to make sure that there aren't any hazardous obstacles in the way.
If you don't have much space to work with, you might need to downsize your furniture or re-think what you keep in your room. If needed, pare down to the essentials and move anything that doesn't absolutely need to be in your bedroom to a different room or storage space.
Having good lighting in your bedroom also important, since it's the place you're most likely to be walking around during the night. Consider positioning a lamp within reach at your bedside so you don't have to feel around in the dark to turn on the light.
Optimize Your Closet Space
The other main functional space in the bedroom is the closet, which is where many people keep their clothes and other items they need to get ready for the day. Unless you just use your closet for storage, you'll want to carefully consider how you arrange your items so that you always have easy access to what you need.
Unfortunately, many closets seem designed for inconvenience; they often have shelves that are too high to reach comfortably, or come with no storage space at all. Luckily, even if your closet doesn't have any built-in shelving, there are plenty of inexpensive storage options you can use to make your closet more functional for what you need it to do.
For example, you can get fabric storage shelves and organizers that you can easily hang from a clothing rod or attach to your closet door. If you want something sturdy but still affordable, you can go with a basic bookshelf or cube shelf, or a simple set of plastic storage drawers.
To reduce bending and stooping, try to keep as many items as possible—especially those you use regularly—off of the floor. Over-the-door organizers and plastic tubs are particularly useful for storing things like shoes, belts, ties, and other accessories that need to be kept together or don't fit well into your existing storage spaces.
The kitchen is another room that you use every day to vital tasks like wash up, prepare meals, and eat. Depending on how you keep your kitchen, it can be either a force of disorder and chaos, or it can be a source of comfort and satisfaction in your home.
Like other functional spaces, your kitchen should be arranged to facilitate how you use it. And how you use your kitchen depends on your lifestyle: what you cook, how often you cook, and which objects and areas in your kitchen you tend to utilize the most.
Unfortunately, many people with COPD avoid cooking due to symptoms like breathlessness, fatigue, and limited physical mobility, all of which can make it difficult to work in the kitchen for long periods of time. The can be exacerbated by COPD-triggering irritants in the kitchen, including cooking fumes, strong odors, and excessive humidity or heat.
Luckily, many of these problems can be mitigated with proper ventilation, re-organization, and outfitting your kitchen with effort-saving tools. In the following sections, we'll show you how to use simple techniques and affordable equipment in your kitchen to make it more comfortable, accessible, and useful for someone with COPD.
Making It Easier to Work In Your Kitchen
The first step to improving your kitchen is applying one of the basic principles of organizing: keep the items you use the most often in the easiest places to reach. In some cases, this might mean taking a less conventional approach to your kitchen arrangement, such as splitting up item categories into more- and less-frequently used groups.
For example, instead of keeping all your spices in a single cabinet, you might separate out the spices you use every day to keep in a more convenient place—such as a more accessible cabinet, drawer, or counter top space.
The same goes for other heavy-use items including dishware, utensils, and food staples that you tend to use often. The less you have to strain, stoop, and dig around for basic tools and ingredients, the more useful—and comfortable—your kitchen will be.
This is especially important for people with COPD, for whom frequent bending and straining can worsen respiratory symptoms. Making your kitchen a more efficient space to work in can give you the ability to use it more often and enjoy more healthy, home-cooked meals.
Here are some helpful tools and gadgets that you can use in your kitchen to make it even more comfortable and accessible for someone with COPD:
- Roll-out trays and lazy suzans: These are a great for deep-set cabinets that make it difficult to see and reach items stored in the back.
- Specialized cutting boards: You can find several different types of cutting boards with adaptive features like finger protectors, cutting guides, non-slip backing, and gadgets to hold your food in place while you slice.
- Raised, wall-mounted appliances (e.g. wall oven, dishwasher, etc.): Appliances mounted within easy reach on or in the walls will reduce the amount of bending and reaching you have to do when you cook.
- Sink pedal: This makes it easy to stop and start the water flow while you use the kitchen sink, making it easier to do dishes while also reducing waster waste.
- Pull-down shelves and cabinetry: Though it can get pricey, installing pull-down storage can make a dramatic difference in your kitchen and significantly increase the amount of reachable (and usable) storage space.
Controlling Cooking Fumes
While kitchen and the bathroom don't have a lot in common, what they do share is a need for proper ventilation and air quality control. Unfortunately, many kitchens don't come equipped with proper vent fans, so you might need to take some extra steps to air out your kitchen when you cook.
Most of the dangerous pollutants in the kitchen come from the stovetop, which is where most people sautee and pan-fry most of their food. Unfortunately, stovetop cooking tends to release all kinds of fumes and combustion products containing pollutants that are dangerous to your lungs.
The safest solution to this problem is installing a fume hood over your stove—one that's properly attached to a vent pipe that pulls the fumes from your kitcen outside. However, fume hoods can be pricey and difficult to install, especially if there's not enough space for one in your existing kitchen design.
The next-best solution is opening up the windows in your kitchen and using a fan to help blow the fumes outside. Whatever solution you choose, you should always have some kind of ventilation going when you cook.
The same goes for when you clean the kitchen, especially if you use noxious chemicals like bleach or ammonia. Ideally, if you have COPD, you should choose lung-safe cleaning products when possible, and/or have someone else do the cleaning while you stay a safe distance away.
If you'd like to learn more about safer cleaning practices, including how to make lung-safe DIY cleaning products using common ingredients at home, check out the tips in our guide on spring cleaning for COPD. You can also find more tips for cooking and meal prepping with COPD in this guide: 27 Ways to Simplify Cooking, Shopping, and Meal Prepping if You Have COPD
The laundry room is a unique place with a single specific function: washing laundry and managing your clothes. Because of this, laundry rooms are usually compact and minimalistic, with little room for embellishments or additions.
However, there are lots of ways to make a laundry room more accessible, especially if you—like many others—find it difficult to do laundry because of your COPD. In many cases, all it takes is a few extra tools to establish a laundry workflow that's more manageable and won't sap all your energy on laundry day.
Choosing the Right Laundry Appliances
Moving large piles of clothes—especially wet clothes—between the washer and dryer is one of the most labor-intensive parts of doing laundry. Because of this, the type of washer and dryer you use can have a major impact on how much effort each load of laundry takes.
Traditional top-loading washers are the most difficult to use, requiring repeated bending, reaching, and heavy lifting to remove wet clothes. This can be very difficult if you have limited strength, limited energy, or easily get breathless because of your COPD.
Front-loading washers and dryers are much easier to use, since you can simply scoop the clothes right out of the barrel without having to strain your body or hoist up heavy piles of clothes. And while it might still be a hit to your budget, front-loading washers aren't as “premium” as they used to be; you can find many at affordable prices, especially if you don't mind buying used or getting an older model.
You could also get a laundry pedestal, or use another method to raise your front-loading laundry machines up off the floor. This puts the barrels of the washer and drying within easy standing reach, eliminating the need to bend over or lift at all.
Designing a Streamlined Laundry Workspace
The laundry room is a workspace designed for a specific purpose: washing clothes, drying clothes, and processing clothes (e.g. sorting, hanging, and folding) to be put away. To make your laundry room as comfortable and practical to use as possible, you need to understand your particular laundry process and arrange your laundry room in a way that helps your process along.
For example, if you like to hang-dry a lot of clothes but don't have a convenient space to do it, there are several compact solutions that can fit in (or near) just about any laundry room. You could get a retractable indoor clothes line, for example, or a compact laundry-drying rack that folds down for easy storage when not in use.
If you tend to use a lot of different laundry supplies (e.g. multiple detergents, dryer sheets, and stain removal products), you'll want to make sure your laundry room is equipped with adequate space to store it all within easy reach. If your existing storage space doesn't cut it, you can always add your own wall shelving or get a rolling laundry caddy to hold your supplies.
If you usually have to lug your laundry to a different room for sorting and folding, you could instead use a lightweight fold-out table (or even an old ironing board) to set up an extra, temporary work space in your laundry room. Or if you find folding tedious and tiring, get a handy laundry-folding board to make the process quicker while reducing the amount of reaching, smoothing, and lifting you have to do.
Here are some other useful laundry gadgets that can improve your laundry room:
- Rolling laundry basket or trolley: This lets you move your laundry from place to place without having to lift it up the basket—or balance it awkwardly on your hip—when you lug it through the house.
- Laundry Carrying Strap: This is a strap that fits over your shoulder and attaches to your laundry basket, making the weight easier to carry while leaving your hands free (this is perfect for carrying laundry up and down stairs).
- Laundry Guard: this is a tool that creates a sort of fence around the top of your washer and dryer, that way you won't accidentally lose any laundry to the impossible-to-reach space behind and to the sides of the machine.
- Over-the-Door Fold-Out Ironing Board: This not only saves space, but also eliminates the hassle of having to fold, carry, and stow your ironing board after every use.
- Front-dispensing Laundry Detergent: Instead of lifting heavy bottles of detergent every time you wash a laundry load, get a detergent bottle with a front dispenser so you don't have to pick it up to use it at all.
- Sitting stool: Keep a small fold-up chair or stool in the laundry room so you can sit and conserve your energy while you work.
For more tips on how to better manage laundry and other tasks, check out our 33 Strategies for Making Household Chores Easier with COPD.
For most people, the living room is a place to relax, watch TV, entertain company, and just generally lounge around. For some, it's also a multi-purpose space for things like hobbies, work, and even exercise.
More so than other rooms, the living room tends to reflect people's personal interests and tastes. Unlike other rooms that come with built-in appliances and other features (e.g. cabinetry, sinks, and shelving), living room designs tend to be bare and open, leaving the functional design all up to you.
Because of this, how you fill your living room space and arrange your furniture can have a tremendous impact on how you use the room. And whether or not you have comfy, satisfying lounge space can have a huge impact on daily life and your ability to enjoy your home.
This is especially true for older adults and people with COPD, who, because of their symptoms and physical limitations, often spend a great deal of time in their homes. As a result, many people with COPD rely on their living rooms for the bulk of their leisure, socializing, and entertainment, making it a particularly important quality of life factor.
In the following sections, we're going to look at how to get the most out of your living room space and optimize it for the activities that matter to you. We'll also talk about how to make the space more open and accessible for those with physical disabilities, and how to get more exercise by transforming your living room into a space for exercising at home.
Defining & Arranging Your Space
Every living room needs a purposeful design, otherwise it just becomes a collection of couches and furniture in a room. If your living room seems lackluster, it might be time to reconsider how you've arranged it and whether or not it facilitates the types of activities that you need it to.
It can help to start with a focal point—a comfortable couch, a coffee table, or an entertainment center. You also need to define your living room's purpose: do you use it solely for watching TV or lounging, or does your living room turn into your home office when you work from home?
Once you have a focus and purpose, then you can start putting everything else in place accordingly, keepin any furniture or floor plan limitations in mind. For example, if you use your living room mainly for entertainment, you might arrange all your furniture to face a large TV at the back of the room.
If you use your living room mainly for socializing, you might go for a more traditional lounge or cozy den set-up instead. If you have a lot of space, you might even have different zones set up, such as a couch & TV set up for lounging with a separate table and chairs for working or sharing a casual meal with friends.
Making Your Living Room COPD-Friendly
If you or someone in your household has COPD or another health condition, it's also important to consider how you can arrange your space to better accommodate their physical needs. For example, if you use a walker, or mobility scooter, you might need to clear out some extra space around and between your furniture so you can more comfortably get around.
Another thing to consider is installing adaptive rails and handlebars near lounge chairs and couches, which can take considerable effort to get up from after you sit. Having a sturdy rail to hold on to can reduce the strain of sitting and standing while helping you conserve your energy and breath.
These (and other adaptive aids for sitting) can make a huge difference for those who struggle to get up without assistance, helping them feel more capable and comfortable in their home. After all, being able to get up and down as you please when you otherwise couldn't could fundamentally change how you go about your daily routine.
Here are some items and gadgets that can make your living room more comfortable and accessible for someone with COPD:
- Furniture risers: Like bed risers, furniture risers are a safe way to prop your furniture up higher, which makes it easier to get up and down from a sitting position.
- Lift chair: A lift chair is a type of armchair with a seat that lifts upward to help you get up and down from the seat.
- Orthopedic seat cushion: An orthopedic seat cushion is a great way to add some extra comfort (and potentially some extra height) to any seat.
- Orthopedic back cushion or seat cover: A full seat cushion or cushioned cover can provide full back support while helping you maintain good posture when you sit (and good sitting posture can make it easier to breathe).
Getting More Out of Your Living Room
In many cases, it's possible to make use of your living room for more than just lounging around. It can double as a home office, a hobby space, or a spot to exercise at home.
Many people with COPD turn to home exercise because it's easier and more accessible than working out at a gym or anywhere else outside the home. And since physical activity is so important for health and COPD management, many doctors encourage COPD patients to do home exercises as a way to work more more regular physical activity into their weekly routine.
The living room is often the go-to space for home workouts for those who don't have extra rooms for a dedicated work out space. It's a great use for an “extra,” less-used living area (if you have one), but you can also make it work in your primary living room.
All you need is a cleared-out corner or central area with enough floor space to spread out a little and move around. For example, you could use the space between your TV and couches by scooching light furniture (like ottomans or coffee tables) out of the way.
What kinds of workouts you can do will depend on the space you have, but there are lots of physical activities—like sitting chair exercises—that hardly require any space at all. You don't even need any specific equipment to get a good workout, although getting a few small things (like a couple of hand-held dumbells or resistance bands) can significantly expand your options for your home exercise routine.
If you really want to commit to making your living room multi-functional, you could even find furniture specially designed to facilitate your workouts or whatever other activities you like to do. For example, you could get an ottoman or coffee table with built-in storage space for hobby equipment, or get tables designed to be easily folded, moved, or adapted for different needs.
For more information on exercising at home with COPD, check out the following guides from our Respiratory Resource Center:
- How to Do Pulmonary Rehab at Home for COPD
- Everything You Need to Know About Exercising at Home with COPD
- How a Portable Oxygen Concentrator Can Help You Exercise at Home
|Image from Ian Lamont|
If you're like most people, you have a whole slew of things in storage, and it's probably not as neat and tidy as you'd like it to be. But while it might take some work to sort through, organizing your clutter is not only a stress reliever, but a great way to reclaim space and make better use of the things you own.
The first step to tackling storage is deciding on best place to put it all when you're done—ideally, somewhere you won't just have to stack everything on the floor. If you don't have dedicated storage spaces or closets, you can always set up shelving in any free space in your home.
Before you start digging through your storage, however, it's important to consider your lung safety first. Storage areas tend to collect lung irritants like dust, pet hair, and insect droppings that can get kicked up into the air when you start moving things around.
To protect your lungs from these hidden hazards, you should wear appropriate protection (like a dust mask or respirator) or simply leave the job to someone else. Make sure the area is fully cleaned up and the dust has had time to settle before you enter the room without lung protection.
The next step is organizing, which is actually very simple process, even though it might seem difficult because it's so time consuming to do. It essentially boils down to two basic steps: sorting your things into categories, and then storing those items away in an organized fashion.
In general, you'll want to sort everything in storage into three main categories: things you want to keep, things you can bear to get rid of, and things you want to move out of storage and put to immediate use somewhere else in your home. Then, you can sort things further into topical or functional categories; how you decide to separate them is completely up to you.
Finally, you need to find a way to keep everything organized while it's in storage. There are lots of different way to do this: you can place things neatly on shelves, use large zip-lock bags to keep smaller items together, or pack things into plastic storage boxes, cabinets, or drawers.
You should also make sure to label all your storage containers (and even shelves) so you can find things quickly again. You might also consider making a written inventory list so you can look up anything you end up losing track of.
The best thing about a fully-organized storage space is that you can actually make use of the things in it whenever you need to—no more putting off the search for an old item or giving up halfway through. It's also just good to take a full stock of everything you have put away every once in awhile, that way you know exactly what you have without having to rely on guesswork or fuzzy memories from years ago.
Additional Resources for COPD Home Optimization
Concerns about home comfort, accessibility, and usability are extremely common, and they've inspired the the creation of a wide variety of resources to help individuals, families, and communities address these concerns. This guide only scratches the surface of all the information and advice that's out here, so we've put together a list of a few additional sources you can check out if you want to learn more.
This is an AI-driven tool designed to offer personalized advice about how to make your home more comfortable and accessible based on your individual needs. All you have to do is answer a few questions about your health struggles, limitations, and mobility needs and you'll get a full report with lots of helpful tips and tools you can use to improve your home and your quality of life.
The Directory of Home Modification and Repair Resources
This is a website run by the Fall Prevention Center of Excellence, an organization dedicated to making home modification more accessible to seniors who desire to age in place. It provides a wealth of educational materials about home safety, comfort, and how to make specific home modifications, as well as links to outside sources of home modification funding, information, and support.
Age in Place: A Guide to Modifying, Organizing, and Decluttering Mom and Dad's Home
This book is a must-have guide for anyone striving to continue living independently—and comfortably—as they age. It covers everything you need to know about creating a safe, accessible, and comfortable living environment for older adults with chronic diseases, disabilities, and other age-related limitations.
Though it's written from the perspective of a family member or caretaker, this book is equally useful for older adults themselves. And since it's written by an occupational therapist, social worker, and “certified aging in place specialist”, you can be sure that it's full of practical and rofessional advice that you can put to use in your own home.
This book is fairly popular, so there's a good chance you can find it for free at your local library or rent an e-book copy from your library's virtual collection. If you are unable to find a free copy, you can always purchase the physical book or e-book online.
State & Local Resources
Many cities and states offer a variety of programs and services for seniors, including resources for safe & accessible living, in-home care, and emergency support. You can figure out what's available in your area by checking your your state, county, and city websites, or by contacting the appropriate agency (e.g. the department of human services) directly.
Your local library or community center are also great places to find information about senior support services in your city. You can also look up non-profit senior advocacy groups in your area to see if they offer any education or support opportunities that might be useful for you.
Another helpful source of advice and information is the National Institute on Aging, which is run by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Their website contains helpful information and advice for aging at home, including options for in-home assistance, healthcare support, and how to fall-proof your home.
Here is a list of some other organizations you can check out to learn more on these topics:
- The Eldercare Locator: (from the US Administration on Aging): This is a free service that can help you find and connect with a wide variety of eldercare resources, including programs that provide home modifications, in-home healthcare services, transportation, and more.
- National Council on Aging: Visit the NCOA's website to learn about their senior advocacy, assistance, and education programs and read helpful articles about how to manage your quality of life as you age.
- The Age Well Planner Tool: (from the National Council on Aging): This website can help you learn more about financial planning for the future, including how to access medicare and other public and private financial aid programs for older adults.
- Area Agencies on Aging: The AAA is large network of more than 600 of senior assistance organizations serving communities all over the country. You can use their website to locate aging resources in your local area.
Making your home more accessible and COPD-friendly is no simple task, but it's doesn't have to be any more expensive or time consuming than you want it to be. And while it might seem daunting at first, you'll find that even the biggest home organization projects are easy to tackle when you break them down piece-by-piece.
If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed or discouraged, to to tackle the smallest and simplest tasks first. If you can make yourself do a little, you might be surprised at how quickly you pick up momentum and motivation to take on bigger tasks.
Whenever you feel overwhelmed or discouraged, remember that it's all for a very worthwhile purpose: to allow you to enjoy a more comfortable lifestyle in a home that works with, rather than against, your COPD. In the end, it's you that gets to benefit from your efforts, and your body will thank you for creating a safe, healthy, and accommodating environment in your home.