Walking into a new and brighter life.

Walking into a new and brighter life.

The healthy me

The healthy me

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Monday, June 20, 2011

Mobility with Copd

As anyone who has the condition can attest, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, or COPD, can have a profound effect on your quality of life. You may find it more difficult to go about your daily activities, which can make you feel quite limited. But even though COPD does impact your ability to get around, it’s essential to keep your mobility — for both your mental and physical health.

Janet Liberty of Kutztown, Pa., has had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) for more than 20 of her 71 years. But this grandmother of nine and great-grandmother of three says she doesn’t let her health put a crimp on her lifestyle. Like many people with COPD, she uses mobility devices to help her get around.

Liberty has a walker with a seat. “I take it with me whenever I go somewhere I know I may be walking a lot and, whenever I get winded, I just put the brakes on and sit down,” she says.

Liberty, who has chronic bronchitis, a common form of COPD, keeps the walker in the trunk of her car so it’s always available when she needs it. “It weighs about 13 pounds, which is just about what I can lift out of the car,” Liberty says. On a recent Red Hat Society shopping trip to Lancaster, Pa., she let a fellow member who had just had a knee replacement borrow her walker. “Quite frankly,” she recalls, “I wished I had used it for myself.”

COPD Mobility: Consider a Motorized Wheelchair

Vicki Siegfried, RN, of Sacred Heart Visiting Nurses in Allentown, Pa., says COPD patients should be as active as possible because the stronger their muscles are, the less oxygen they need to use. Medical equipment, like wheelchairs, walkers, and scooters, can help COPD patients maintain the mobility they need for an active lifestyle, Siegfried says.

Motorized wheelchairs may be best for COPD patients as many find their COPD impairs their ability to propel a manual wheelchair. If you are on oxygen, you will need a wheelchair that accommodates your unit. Liquid portable oxygen is available in a very light device, making it practical for ambulatory systems. “Whoever provides care for you on a regular basis can help you determine which device is best for your situation,” says Norman Edelman, MD, chief medical officer of the American Lung Association.

“There’s a lot of equipment out there that people aren’t aware of,” Siegfried adds. Home medical equipment companies can help you find the best devices for your situation, and the oxygen suppliers also often will have good advice. There is a wide range of options available, with an equally wide range of features, so it’s important to do your research before buying.

Siegfried says some COPD patients may find a walker works for shorter trips and wheelchairs for longer trips. “We generally don’t suggest using scooters as much in the home,” Siegfried explains.

COPD Mobility: Check Your Insurance Coverage

The more bells and whistles the wheelchair or walker has, the less likely it is to be covered by insurance, Siegfried says. “Insurance may cover part of it, but COPD patients may have to pay out-of-pocket for some of it as well,” she adds. For the device to be covered in part or in whole by Medicare, you will need a prescription from a physician.

Liberty, who only uses oxygen at night when she sleeps, didn’t even look to see if she had coverage for her walker. “I paid for it myself,” she says, “but I didn’t mind because I wanted to have it available to me.”


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