When my mom was diagnosed with COPD and had to go on oxygen, she thought her traveling days were over, especially traveling by airplane. And to some extent, that seemed like a fair assessment... at least at first.
But, with the right oxygen supplier and due to some recent legal changes regarding air travel, it can still be possible to travel with oxygen without raising stress levels beyond recovery.
The Challenges of Traveling When You Have COPD
When a person has COPD, the mere thought of traveling can be exhausting. The effort involved, not to mention the stress of being in new and unfamilar situations, can be obstacles they don't want to even think about, much less actually deal with. As a caregiver, you can help to reassure them and smooth the way.
Here are some of the things you'll need to plan for:
- Portable oxygen
- Need for frequent rest periods
- Transporting all of the medical supplies & equipment
- Fear of the unknown & unexpected
The last obstacle, while somewhat vague, can be the easiest to deal with, provided you are willing to put in the planning and effort to set everything up and anticipate the roadblocks along the way. Of course, if you are actually traveling with your loved one, that will make everything much simpler!
When someone has COPD, they are likely on a number of different medicines and may also be on nebulizer treatments. In addition, due to their general debility, they may require assistive devices to walk, etc. When they travel, all of these things must be brought along. They'll need adequate medicine to last throughout their time away, as well as a way to carry the equipment and supplies they'll need.
If you've notice how tired your loved one gets just from putting on clothes or eating a meal, then you won't be surprised about how utterly exhausting traveling can be. The anxiety about getting around alone can be tiring and then there is the actual effort involved in getting up and down, in and out and having to interact with strangers. So, be sure to allow for adequate rest during the trip or at least once they reach their destination.
Finally, you'll need to find a way for your loved one to get oxygen while they are enroute to their destination (portable oxygen) and a supply they can use once they get there (if they're staying).
Tips for Traveling by Land with Oxygen
Traveling by land is definitely the easiest way to go with oxygen. Traveling by car gives you the most flexibility. All you need is to do is carry your own portable oxygen equipment and to arrange for refills along the way or once you reach where you're going. If you store a tank in the car, just be sure it's not in the trunk (where it can get too hot) and that you keep a window open for venting.
We took my mom to see a spring waterfall a few weeks ago. We were concerned that her portable tank wouldn't last for the whole round trip, so her oxygen company let us borrow a small reservoir that we used to refill the portable a couple of times during the trip. Worked great!