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British Lung Foundation
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Mum has severe COPD and now has pneumonia.... any advice?

Hi there. My mum has severe COPD , lung capacity between 20-25%. She was diagnosed 5 years ago. Has been a heavy smoker since she was 8 years old and is now 58. She still continues to smoke. And just 2 days ago she got diagnosed with pneumonia..... I googled the combination of this disease with COPD and the results are incredibly saddening and heartbreaking. My mums health in the past 2 years alone have been dramatic. She has regular breathing attacks if she over exerts herself by climbing stairs in her house. She isn’t on oxygen yet, the doctors refuse to give her a nebuliser which is something she needs if she is home alone and an attack occurs. I feel utterly helpless. My 17 year old sister is her main carer, it’s so sad to see how it is effecting her, she has college and part time job. She sees her decline of health more than myself and my 2 other sisters. My mum has that pulmonary rehab thing, she has breathing exercises that the doctor has told her she must do. I live 35 minutes away and have a full time job , so I can’t just pop over regularly. My older sister is a single mum with 3 children so it’s a struggle for her aswell. We all are just feeling like we are watching from a distance as she deteriorated but there’s not much more we can do other than be there for her (and each other) and help when we can with daily chores e.t.c . She can’t vacuum anymore. She has been given some sort of steroids for her pneumonia but she’s still in discomfort and pain.

She has had her entire life to give up smoking. She’s a stubborn women and is too addicted. We have tried numerous times encouraging her, buying her patches, taking her to the doctors and giving advice, but to no prevail. She has chosen cigarettes over quality of life and the sad part is all 3 of my sisters and my brother smoke. I am the only one who doesn’t.

Has anyone got any advice ? Any tips? Any information on what we can do for our Mum other than what the doctor has already said?

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I can't give much advice, but there are others on here who can. I just had to say, what a lovely, selfless woman you are.

I've seen families let one sibling do all the caring and still have the gall to criticise her, so, your sensitivity to your sister's situations, is heartwarming to read. xx

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I agree with casper, you sound like a lovely caring daughter and I am so sorry you are in this situation.

At the end of the day you can't force anyone to stop smoking as it has to be their choice. I smoked for 44 years and was lucky enough to stay mild copd for that time. After many years of making excuses I finally bit the bullet in August this year.

The way to help others to stop is to build them up, tell them they are strong enough to pack it in and you have faith in them. Also tell her you will support her all the way even if it means 2 am phone calls for a while! Also tell her that oxygen might help her to live a better and longer life but no doctor will prescribe it whilst she is still smoking because of the fire risk.

There is a great stop smoking site on here called 'Quit'. Have a look at it and maybe you could persuade your mum to join it and here as well.

I am wondering if your mum could be suffering from depression? This is very common in chronic illnesses. I hope you find some answers. x

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Oh dear how difficult this must be for your younger sister, being 17 and having to cope with this along with her college, work etc.

Firstly, the pneumonia, she needs to rest and really bed rest for good few weeks, then take it really easy. Takes months to get over pneumonia so it's quite long drawn out I'm afraid. Lots of fluids, hot water from the kettle and lots of it, 6/7 mugs a day really is very good as it helps break the mucus down. An expectorant medicine from the chemist, one that thins mucus making it easier to cough up, ask your pharmacist for the best one. Assume she on antibiotics so a good probiotic twice daily and lots of vitamin C, also honey Manuka is the best one. You can take paracetamol and ibruprofen together but make sur with the latter it's with food so easy on the tummy. Keeping warm and cosy and total rest. After about 6 weeks she should have an X-ray to ensure the infection has cleared from the lung, needs to insist on that from the GP.

She should have regular visits to a respiratory specialist and if needs have her oxygen. Might be an idea for one of the family to go with her and be very firm about it. GPs know very little about these conditions and are really not usually qualified enough hence why she needs a good specialist and COPD clinic.

Maybe the family could draw up a sort of rota to help her and each other? I know it's hard I'm a carer for my son who has disabilities and it's exhausting, so I realise how hard you all find it.

With smoking perhaps vaping? It's not the best idea but think it's better than smoking? My mum gav up a year ago after years of smoking she just did it one day said never again and didn't go back on it, I'm proud and glad she has. Personally I think that's the best way I think it's a question of just going cold with it. But you've got to want to do it and that's the tricky thing. Also if she did give up its vital no one smokes near her.

I'm sorry I can't be of more assistance I hope she feels better soon and you all get together.

Good luck x

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Hello Jennyjm, this news is terrible and you and your siblings sound like you are at your wits end. Have you tried to get a Nurse to come in and help you? I have stage 4 copd with Emphaseama and have the same problems as your mum, luckily for me I am on nebuliser. Don't understand why your mum isn't . She won't be out on oxygen if her levels are good, we all know smoking is the main cause for this dreadful illness but taking advice is not easy if you have smoked most of your life, but it is necessary. She really dose need a nebuliser though, it will help her a great deal. My husband is my full time career and has to help me with everything as I am also disabled. Your mum should be having more home care with nurses. If I were you I would seek medical advice from the hospital.please let me know how you get on? ✋️😊

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She must know that she has to stop smoking. If she doesn't, things will only go in one direction i.e. from bad to worse.

Sorry to be so blunt but what I write is a fact - I know from bitter personal experience.

Good luck and best wishes for 2018.

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I am surprised that your sisters who smoke are still doing so having seen what this is doing to your Mum. I was first diagnosed with COPD sone 2years ago but managed eventually to give up smoking. I begged my daughter to stop smoking but she would not listen and she is now also a COPD sufferer. The best advice I can give is that they decide as a family to support each other in kicking the cigarettes and giving themselves a chance of a better life.

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Bless you its so hard caring for someone with COPD. I nursed my husband who lost his life at 64 years of age to the disease along with Emphysema/Pneumonia. I tried many times to get him to stop smoking and it was impossible, he really only stopped 3 months before he passed away because the breathing got so bad and the panic attacks he had when he could not breath. I stopped smoking myself 5 years ago after watching him struggle to breath, having asthma myself it was not doing me any good either.

You are an amazing daughter, so caring and I know how hard it is the caring and advising. Hubby used to lose his temper with me if I suggested stopping the smoking. I wish you and your family all the best and hopefully when your mum is struggling to breath she might think about the benefits of stopping smoking.

Hugs x

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