Activities of daily living (ADL) is a term that was first coined by Sidney Katz in 1950. Essentially, it refers to the basic functions that an individual must perform on a daily basis in order to be considered self-sufficient. By better understanding the level of independence of patients with debilitating illnesses like COPD, osteoporosis, or Alzheimer’s Disease, medical professionals are able to make better decisions for their patient’s well-being such as recommending medical equipment or an assisted living facility. Activities of daily living are generally divided into five distinct categories:
Personal Hygiene - bathing, grooming, hair care, and oral health
Continence - using the bathroom
Dressing - the ability to select clothing and dress for different occasions
Feeding - the ability to eat and drink
Ambulating - the ability to walk and move around independently
When it comes to managing your daily life with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), it’s very important to consider how your condition affects your ability to live independently. Studies have shown that ADLs can be very challenging for respiratory patients because they can lead to dyspnea (shortness of breath) and oxygen desaturation, meaning the percentage of oxygen in the blood is lower than what it should be.
In this post, we’ll take a look at the importance of supplemental oxygen for carrying out activities of daily living. We’ll also show you why portable oxygen concentrators are the best device to use for maintaining your freedom and independence. If you have any questions about these units, please feel free to leave a comment or reach out to our respiratory specialists.
What is a Portable Oxygen Concentrator?
A portable oxygen concentrator is an electronic device used to administer medical-grade oxygen. POCs are the most state-of-the-art oxygen units on the market because they’re extremely lightweight and versatile. Using a POC, you’ll be able to go more places and do more things than if you had a standard compressed oxygen tank or liquid oxygen tank. Since they’re electronic devices, you simply need to have access to a source of power in order to recharge your batteries. You’ll never have the need to reach out to an oxygen company ever again to refill or deliver new tanks to your home!
One of the greatest benefits of owning a portable oxygen concentrator is that they’re approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for in-flight use. What this means is that you can take your POC with you on any commercial flight within the United States. This is a freedom that COPD patients never had in the past because compressed oxygen tanks and liquid oxygen tanks are not allowed on flights for safety reasons. Upgrading your old outdated oxygen device to a portable oxygen concentrator quite literally opens up a world of possibilities! Without further ado, let’s take a look at why activities of daily living are so much easier when you have a portable oxygen concentrator.
Reduced Shortness of Breath
The human body has a complex system for managing breathing rate and breathing depth. Breathing is part of something called the autonomic nervous system which regulates involuntary physiologic processes like heart rate and blood pressure. However, you also have the ability to take control of your lungs through voluntary breathing. Exercises like deep breathing or controlled breathing are great for teaching you how to use your lungs more effectively.
One of the primary factors that affect respiratory rate is how much carbon dioxide is in the blood. When you are unable to expel air from the lungs fully — a problem that’s common among COPD patients — CO2 begins to build up in the bloodstream. This change in CO2 levels is detected by chemoreceptors which send a message to the medulla oblongata (the control center for the lungs) to increase respiratory rate. Other factors that affect respiratory rate and depth include atmospheric pressure, intra-alveolar pressure, and body temperature.
If you have COPD, interstitial lung disease, or any number of other respiratory conditions, the best way to reduce feelings of breathlessness is by increasing the concentration of oxygen in the lungs. By doing so, you will stabilize CO2 levels in your blood and the chemoreceptors will never send a message to your brain that you need to breathe quicker or more heavily. What this means when it comes to activities of daily living is that you won’t need to stop to catch your breath so frequently.
Using a portable oxygen concentrator throughout the day will prevent you from becoming breathless and thus reducing your chance of experience a COPD exacerbation. Many people find it difficult to keep up with their friends or loved ones because they need to stop to rest frequently. But with a portable oxygen concentrator, you can easily adjust the amount of oxygen you’re receiving based on how you’re feeling. It’s important to speak with your doctor, however, who will tell you what oxygen levels are acceptable.
Improved Mental Alertness
Your ability to complete daily tasks like eating, bathing, and cooking is equally reliant on your mental ability as it is your physical ability. When the oxygen levels in your blood are low this may result in brain hypoxia, also known as cerebral hypoxia, or low oxygen levels in the brain. Symptoms of brain hypoxia include temporary memory loss, impaired motor functions, confusion, lightheadedness, and more.
Maintaining a “sharp” mind with age is notoriously difficult and living with a respiratory condition like COPD can make it even more challenging. However, by carrying a portable oxygen concentrator with you wherever you go and keeping your oxygen saturation at a healthy level, you’ll be able to rule out one potential cause of cognitive decline as you go about your daily life. Studies have found that there is a correlation between disease severity and cognitive decline, so the more you can do to slow the progress of COPD, the better off you will be in terms of your mental health as well.
A portable oxygen concentrator will provide you with a convenient and reliable source of oxygen as you go about your day. POCs like the Inogen One G5 and Caire FreeStyle Comfort simply need to be turned on and then you can adjust the flow setting however you need it. Then all you need to do is set it and forget it. Your POC will provide you with a steady supply of oxygen all day allowing you to go about your day with your oxygen needs out of mind. This will afford you the freedom to focus your attention on what you’re trying to accomplish rather than worrying about whether your needs are met.
Another reason mental alertness is so important is for your safety. People experiencing cognitive decline, more specifically dementia, are at a higher risk of experiencing a fall. Like we discussed in a previous blog post, experiencing a fall, whether it’s inside or outside your home can be dangerous. Studies have also found that dementia patients are at a greater risk for car accidents. Whether you’re driving to the store or just doing chores around the house, maintaining your oxygen levels will keep your mind sharp so that you can navigate safely.
Improved Exercise Tolerance
As you’re likely already aware, a healthy exercise routine is paramount to any COPD treatment plan. While exercise is important for everyone, it’s especially important for people with chronic lung conditions who need their lungs to perform as optimally as possible. Studies show that exercise increases the strength and function of muscles meaning that they require less oxygen. In other words, any form of exercise will benefit you in the long run. But if you want the best exercise routine, speak with your doctor about pulmonary rehabilitation. This is a type of exercise routine that focuses on your lungs and respiratory system as a whole.
When you’re exercising, the rate and depth of your breathing increase because your muscles need more oxygen. What’s more, your heart rate and blood flow increase in order to get that oxygen to the parts of the body that are being worked the most. Not only do your muscles need this oxygen in order to provide them with energy, but oxygenated muscles tend to recover and rebuild faster than muscles that do not get oxygen. So your body will feel more prepared to go through a strenuous exercise the next day.
Without a doubt, portable oxygen concentrators are the best oxygen device for exercising. Most pulse dose concentrators weigh around 5 pounds and are no bigger than a handbag or purse, so taking one with you when you do your exercise routine is hassle-free. Concentrators like the Caire FreeStyle Comfort also have a lot of carrying options available for them so you can find one that works best for the type of workout you’re doing. The custom carrying case, for example, is great for walking or hiking, but if you’re doing something more involved like weight lifting, you might want to go for the FreeStyle Comfort backpack.
Mobility is oftentimes one of the most discussed issues when it comes to aging, and for good reason. The older we get, the more likely we are to suffer from debilitating conditions like osteoporosis, arthritis, impaired strength or balance, or dementia. COPD only makes these conditions worse by adding breathlessness, chest pain, and chronic fatigue to the mix. Sometimes, there isn’t one particular way of dealing with these issues, but instead, COPD patients should work with their doctor and loved ones to find the best solution for them.
While portable oxygen concentrators certainly don’t “solve” mobility issues, they can definitely help. Old outdated oxygen devices like oxygen tanks are extremely heavy and awkwardly shaped making it nearly impossible to navigate your home with ease. But when you upgrade to a POC, you’ll have a machine that you can carry around the house all day while completing chores and never feeling the need to set it down for a rest. If you use a mobility aid like a walker, wheelchair, or electric wheelchair, you can easily set your POC on your mobility for even more convenience and comfort.
Another benefit of having a portable oxygen concentrator is that it’s easier to prevent your oxygen tubing from getting tangled or tripping over it as you walk. Whether you carry your POC on your shoulder or your back, you won’t need to use long oxygen tubing. But since oxygen tanks are so heavy, you’ll need to use a rolling cart, meaning you’ll need to use much longer oxygen tubing. Many people find that their oxygen tubing gets tangled and wrapped around things while using an oxygen tank which is not only frustrating but dangerous as well.
Activities of daily living are essential tasks that we need to perform each day in order to be independent. If COPD prevents you from doing one or more of these tasks, then you may need to consider hiring a part-time or full-time caretaker. Alternatively, you could invest in a medical oxygen device like a portable oxygen concentrator which allows you to extend your freedom and independence. Many COPD patients feel like they’re taken back in time when they get their first POC because they are able to do things they never thought would be possible after being diagnosed with COPD.
One important thing to note is that oxygen is a controlled substance in the United States. In other words, you will need to have a prescription for medical oxygen from your doctor in order to purchase a portable oxygen concentrator. Whether you have a prescription or not, your best course of action is to give our respiratory specialists a call here at LPT Medical. If you don’t have the required paperwork to purchase a POC, we can reach out to your doctor for you. We’ll also walk you through the process of choosing a portable oxygen concentrator from start to finish. We’re also happy to announce that we now offer assistance with Medicare and medical financing so you can save as much money as possible on a new, used, or refurbished unit.
Give us a call or email us today for more information!