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Living with COPD

Do everyday chores with less effort

Follow these tips to make your everyday activities less tiring:

Cleaning chores:
Food & kitchen chores:
Bathing and Showering
  • Sit on a chair or a stool while washing, shaving, or applying makeup. (It may help to support your elbows on the sink or table).
  • Organize frequently-used equipment such as towels and shaving kits in accessible areas in the bathroom.
  • Eliminate getting right into a tub or standing in the shower by using a bath stool and a hand shower. If you are unable to manage washing your hair in a shower, tub or at a sink, ask for help.
  • Ensure safety with grab bars or rails that attach to the walls or bathtub. Non-skid mats also improve safety.
  • Increase independence by using a long-handled bath brush and towel sling to wash your back and feet.
  • Minimize shortness of breath by wearing a terry-cloth bathrobe or wrapping up in a large towel to dry off.
  • Avoid using spray deodorants and aerosol shaving creams, which may irritate your lungs.
  • Control your breathing when showering or bathing. Keep the water temperature warm (not hot) to minimize shortness of breath
Laundry and ironing
  • Carry dirty or folded clothes in a bundle buggy, rolling laundry cart or laundry basket. If your laundry area is downstairs, throw the clothes downstairs instead of carrying them.
  • Raise front-load washers and dryers on blocks to avoid bending.
  • Use the perma-press setting on your dryer to avoid ironing.
  • Schedule laundry days during the week to avoid build-up.
  • Keep a chair in the laundry area to avoid making frequent trips up and down stairs if your laundry facilities are in the basement.
  • Always fold clothes while sitting, preferably directly from the dryer.
  • Sort clothes on a table (never on the floor) and use a rolling laundry cart.
  • If you hang clothes to dry, use a wheeled utility cart. Raise it to your height to eliminate frequent bending.
  • Sit to iron, adjusting the height of the board to a comfortable level. Keep a rack next to the ironing board for hanging freshly ironed clothes.
  • Don't iron what doesn't need to be ironed! Instead of ironing, fold sheets, towels and underwear.

Take a deep breath before you start the machine, start breathing out with pursed lips and at the same time start the machine and push forward. Correlate pushing and pulling movements with your breathing pattern.

When vacuuming:

  • Move slowly and rhythmically with the vacuum. Inhale as you push the vacuum head away from you, exhale as you pull it towards you.
  • Maintain good posture.
  • Take frequent breaks.

To minimize dust particles in the air, use a damp newspaper to empty the vacuum cleaner bag or carpet sweeper.


Dusting may cause difficulty as the dust itself may be an irritant. Some dusting may be done while sitting. Do not use spray wax as it also be an irritant. Instead, use a cream or paste wax for polishing furniture.

  • To dust high surfaces, use a long-handled duster or cleaning attachment to avoid reaching and climbing.
  • To dust low surfaces, sit down and use a handled duster or cleaning attachment to avoid bending.

Avoid a clutter of furniture and bric-a-brac so you can clean and dust without moving furniture and items

Cleaning the floors
  • When using a broom or mop, stand tall to avoid bending at the waist.
  • Use a long-handled dust pan to pick up sweepings.
  • Use floor coverings that require little upkeep (not wax).

Scrubbing the floor - Use a long-handled sponge mop. Inhale as you push the mop away from you; exhale as you pull it towards you.

Kneeling and scrubbing is hard work: if you have to do it, use breathing control. In the kneeling position breathe in, start breathing out with pursed lips, and at the same time bend down and scrub the floor. Always make a point to raise yourself to kneeling position and breathe in. Pursed-lip breathing should always be done with heavier tasks such as bending and scrubbing. Select the best part of the day for a heavy task such as this, as it takes most of your energy.

Wiping spills and picking up
  • Use a small mop for wiping up spills to save bending.
  • Use pick-up tongs to pick up articles from the floor.
  • Use paper towel to eliminate extra laundry.
Cleaning the bathtub

Sit or kneel down to clean the bathtub instead of bending. Use long-handled sponges. Avoid spray cleaners, aerosols, and chemical cleaners.

Use breathing control - inhale, then start breathing out as you reach and clean. Make sure you take frequent rest periods. This restores your energy and prevents shortness of breath, dizziness, and sweating.

Making the bed

Breakdown of this activity into small components is very important. Handle one component at a time. For example, breathe in, start blowing out air with pursed lips and, at the same time, move your arms to straighten out the bed-clothes. Inhale again and start breathing out as you bend to tuck ends and corners etc. Do not rush. Rushing will only cause shortness of breath.

  • When straightening or changing bed sheets, make one side of the bed at a time.
  • Sit down to change pillow cases and take a rest.
  • Unfold linen, and line up centre fold of the sheet with the centre of the bed.
  • When changing bed linen, put bottom sheet, top sheet, blanket and spread on first, and then tuck in the bottom sheet at both ends. Continue making the bed on that side as usual.
  • When shaking out bed linen, inhale as you raise your arms, and exhale as you bring the linen onto the bed. When smoothing bed clothes, inhale as you extend and exhale as you pull towards your body.
  • Avoid bending. Instead, stoop, squat or sit on a chair.
  • A comforter can allow you to eliminate numerous top sheets and blankets.
  • Casters on the bed allow it to be moved more easily.
Preparing food:
  • Plan menus in advance.
  • Use menus that require short preparation time and little effort (for example, frozen foods, convenience foods, ready mixes).
  • Gather together and move all necessary items to the work area on a wheeled utility cart.
  • Sit at a table or counter of correct height to mix ingredients, chop and slice vegetables, etc.
  • Slide or use a wheeled utility cart to move items (slide pots, don't lift them).
Setting the table and serving:
  • Collect all dishes and silverware needed for the meal and move them on a wheeled utility cart.
  • Consider eating meals in the kitchen or breakfast room.
  • Avoid using serving dishes. Serve directly from the baking dish.
  • Transport prepared food to the table by wheeled utility cart.
Other kitchen hints
  • Use a cutting board that fits over the sink.
  • Use a hose to add water to pots and pans.
  • Avoid items that require constant stirring or attention.
  • Use lightweight dishes. Consider lightweight and double-handled pots and pans.
After-meal clean-up
  • Rest for a while before starting to clean up.
  • Have each family member carry his or her own dishes and rinse and pile them by the sink.
  • Collect all remaining items on a wheeled utility cart and move them to the sink area.
  • Plan a dish-washing centre for efficiency. If space allows, leave out a dish drainer.
Washing dishes by hand
  • Sit on a high stool at the sink when washing dishes.
  • Air-dry dishes.
  • When putting away dishes, remove them from drainer to a wheeled utility cart, then take one trip around the kitchen to put them away.
Washing dishes using a dishwasher
  • Rinse dishes at the sink close to dishwasher and organize them into groups (plates, glasses, silverware, bowls, etc.)
  • Load the dishwasher by filling the bottom rack first.
  • Unload dishes onto a wheeled utility cart, then take one trip around the kitchen to put them away.
  • Shop on weekdays or in the evenings when the stores are typically less crowded.
  • Do your shopping over several short trips rather than one long trek.
  • If you use an inhaler or puffer, make sure it's always on hand. If you use oxygen, be sure you have enough.
  • Lighten your load. Only carry the absolute essentials in your purse and/or pockets. Don't shop wearing a heavy winter coat or lots of layers.
  • If possible, shop with a friend or neighbour who can help carry parcels around the mall, to the car, and into your home.
  • Ask for help in reaching items that are beyond your grasp or too heavy to lift on your own.
  • Use catalogues and shop by phone or online so you can have your purchases delivered right to your door!
  • Plan menus to avoid unnecessary trips to the market.
  • Jot down items as you need them or as supplies get low.
  • Plan your market list in keeping with the layout of the store.
  • Use a shopping cart and place heavy items near the handle for better leverage.
  • Transport groceries in the trunk of the car, not in the back seat.
  • Use a bundle buggy to bring food home from store.
  • If carrying groceries, load the bags half full.

Know your limits. As soon as you begin to feel tired or short of breath, take the time to sit down and rest, or just stop shopping and go home.

Shopping Centres and COPD
  • Shop in enclosed shopping centres, not streetfront stores or strip-malls. Going back and forth from one temperature extreme to another (cool air conditioned stores to a hot humid sidewalk, for example) can be hard on your breathing.
  • Plan your route - start at one end of the mall and work your way to the stores without any backtracking or extra walking. Buy heavy items last.
  • Whether you're holiday shopping or getting groceries, ask a sales associate to carry your purchase to your car, or arrange for home delivery.
  • You may be eligible for a handicapped parking permit. To find out, check with your province's Ministry of Transportation. You'll likely need to have your doctor certify your health condition and sign your permit application. Otherwise, take advantage of the valet parking services offered by some shopping centres, so you don't have to trek across a parking lot with your parcels.
  • Larger shopping centres offer scooter and/or wheelchair rentals. Use them, especially when walking is difficult.
Putting groceries away
  • If possible, have a family member do this for you.
  • Make several trips with rest periods between to carry groceries into the house. If necessary, carry one bag at a time.
  • Sit on a stool and sort according to storage locations.
  • Transport items on a wheeled utility cart to their storage place.
  • Sort groceries at work height, not on the floor.
Helpful shopping hints
  • Shop at markets where they unload your carts and deliver groceries to your car.
  • Take advantage of advertised specials so you can buy as much as you can store.
  • Keep a detailed list so someone else could shop for you.

Don't wear yourself out, and don't try to do as much as you could before COPD. To keep holidays simple, consider giving gift certificates, or give everyone on your list the same gift. For example, make this the year you give all your grandchildren CDs or magazine subscriptions.

Use seasonal or themed gift bags to wrap gifts- they're just as attractive as wrapping paper, and a lot less effort. Or take advantage of gift wrapping services offered by some malls and stores.