We’re living longer than ever before, but as we age, the maximum functionality of our body’s systems gradually declines. Our respiratory systems are no exception. Age-related changes include a decline in lung capacity and a weakened diaphragm, which may prevent us from breathing enough air in or out. What’s more, changes in the lungs may compound the effects of other illnesses and diseases—such as asthma, pneumonia, heart disease or even the common cold—leading to breathing difficulties as we get older.
“If it’s hard for you to breathe, then little else matters,” says Dr. Elaine Healy, United Hebrew of New Rochelle’s medical director and vice president of medical affairs. She says she is seeing more seniors challenged with respiratory conditions than they have been in the past. With that in mind, United Hebrew has added respiratory therapy services for its nursing home residents. “Our goal is to help our residents breathe easier, which helps ensure a higher quality of life,” says Dr. Healy.
Terrence Seymour, the new staff respiratory therapist, is now attending to residents with respiratory conditions such as emphysema, chronic bronchitis, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and other breathing disorders.
After evaluating residents, he makes recommendations for services that may include:
- Treatments such as nebulizers, inhalers, oxygen, and CPAP and BIPAP (non-invasive forms of advanced ventilation therapy) care
- Education and tips on how to prevent breathing troubles by staying healthy, including eating well, getting flu shots, washing hands frequently, and smoking cessation, among others
- Monitored exercises to help residents become stronger and improve breathing
“It’s a great feeling when I can use my skills to help someone ease their breathing difficulties,” says Seymour. “It’s also rewarding to help educate our residents on how to manage and prevent respiratory conditions, which will help them live longer, and healthier lives.”