COPD Requires Energy Conservation Techniques

Like LED lightbulbs, humans can also use energy more efficiently and still power their purpose - even last longer.

Helpful Highlights

  • Energy conservation techniques consider the time it takes to complete a task, the physical demands of that task, your loved one's limitations, and organization and prioritization.

  • Energy conservation techniques are useful for bathing, toileting and hygiene, dressing and undressing, meal prep and eating, daily chores, and more.

  • Many physical aides can assist with energy conservation and task accomplishment.

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Energy Conservation

These energy-saving techniques can help your loved one use their energy wisely to reduce tiredness and maintain their independence. The more your loved one can do for themselves, the more self-esteem they will have, less depression, and in turn, reduce your worries and workload.

What can you do for your loved one?


  • Do the cleaning, chopping, and packing together in advance

  • Prepare sandwiches and finger foods that can be ready in the refrigerator for light meals and snacks

  • Bigger meals can be prepared, cooked, plated, and covered - ready to be warmed up

  • Do not maintain food in heavy baking dishes or large pots/pans

  • Sit whenever possible during prep

  • Rest for 20-30 minutes after eating


  • Lay out clothes before bathing, or lay out clothes at night for the morning

  • Adapt or modify the home environment, especially the bathroom and bedroom (such as with grab bars and convenient seating)

  • Reorganize closets and shelves so your loved one does not have to reach above shoulders or below the waist (below knees at the lowest)

Toileting and hygiene:

  • Install grab bars, a shower chair, and perhaps even an elevated toilet seat

  • Ensure all items needed are in one location and easy to reach (toothbrush and toothpaste, washcloth and soap, hair brush, shaving items, etc.)

  • Whenever possible, have your loved one sit to perform hygiene

Outside support:

Look for community resources that can include meal delivery services, shopping services, community transportation, and more

ASK FOR HELP. Divide and conquer task lists with family, friends, and neighbors. Create social gatherings around jobs that need to be done (summer pitch-ins, holiday decorating). This will also help prevent your isolation and exhaustion as a caregiver.

Go to appointments and talk with your loved one's primary care provider and pulmonologist directly. Communicate subtle changes in activity level, sleep, appetite, toileting, and mentation (how they're thinking and engaging). Also, communicate changes in general demeanor (such as irritability) and physical well-being (experiencing lightheadedness or muscle cramping).

Discuss with their provider the benefits of home health care. Occupational Therapy can help with energy conservation techniques and adaptation recommendations. Physical Therapy can help with increasing strength and endurance, as well as improving balance. Speech therapy can help strengthen throat and chest muscles and improve lung capacity.


  • Services and benefits covered by your loved one's health plan

  • Services available through private pay (hired personal care and homemaking)

  • Check into volunteer organizations for yard work and handyman jobs (such as church groups and high schools)

Remind your loved one that it’s okay to be short of breath. Sometimes, they may need encouragement to accept their current situation and make adjustments. Focus on controlling breathing and taking slow, deep breaths - especially when they start feeling anxious (as anxiety begets more shortness of breath, which causes more anxiety). Remind them that breathing gets easier as anxiety improves. You may want to breathe with them to demonstrate the breaths and help them feel at ease.

Move slowly during tasks that take a lot of effort and build in short rest periods. Assure your loved one that you are willing to wait for them to do things, even when it would take you half the time to just do it yourself. This assurance increases their feelings of independence and control, which is very important to you both. Avoid unnecessary tasks.  Help them identify where they can cut some activities so they have more energy for the ones they enjoy most.

Plan activities so they can rest before and after them, as needed, especially while away from home. Plan for extended periods of rest at least once a day, though encourage them not to nap during that time, as it affects nightly sleep. They can rest without napping by having something easy to do such as reading, puzzles, or folding clothes. If their feet or ankles are swollen, put their feet up during rest.

Examples of items that may help:

A pillow wedge or electric bed to elevate their head and chest during sleep.

Pillow Wedge

Reacher tools can be very helpful in retrieving (non-heavy) items from high or low places and come in a variety of grabbers.

Reacher Tool

Also, consider a long shoehorn.

Long Shoe Horn

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Older man is smiling at his relative caregiver