Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) Care Plan

COPD care includes a whole lifestyle

A carefully constructed chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) care plan can have a major impact on your quality of life, expanding your opportunities for self-care, enjoyment, socializing, and work. Your COPD management involves issues such as making your home safe and accessible, getting regular physical exercise, learning to optimize your breathing, using supplemental oxygen and more.

At the core of your COPD care plan, you need to take your maintenance medications as directed and have your emergency prescriptions handy. It’s also crucial that you and your immediate caregivers know how to recognize signs that indicate a need for urgent medical attention. A comprehensive COPD care plan is lifestyle plan that involves you, your family, and your medical team. 

Breathing exercises with COPD
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Smoking Cessation 

The biggest aspect of your COPD care plan is smoking cessation. Whether you were just diagnosed yesterday with very early stage COPD or are barely able to walk due to advanced COPD-associated shortness of breath—quitting smoking now will prevent your disease from worsening and help prevent life threatening COPD exacerbations. 

It isn’t easy to quit smoking, so be sure to talk to your healthcare provider about using prescription smoking cessation aids, nicotine replacement, and/or counseling as you take this major life saving step in your life. 

Activity Level 

Advanced COPD can affect your ability to carry out everyday activities. Things like going to your job, taking care of your house, driving, running errands, and attending social gatherings can make you short of breath. These activities can be exhausting or they may be hard to get to if you have an oxygen supplementation device. 

Talk to your healthcare provider about what you can do to stay active without overdoing it. A diagnosis of COPD is not something you can ignore, but it doesn’t mean that you have to give up everything you love in your life.


Maintaining regular physical activity keeps your muscles in good shape. You also need to keep your cardiovascular fitness in the best shape possible. In general, walking is safe for COPD, and other exercises such as yoga or lifting manageable weights should be fine as well. If you aren’t sure where to start, ask your healthcare provider or a trainer for guidance.

Avoiding Infections

Having COPD makes you more susceptible to respiratory infections. And the condition makes it hard to recover from a respiratory infection. Furthermore, getting a lung infection like pneumonia or bronchitis can worsen your COPD in the long run due to infection-induced inflammation and lung damage. So it’s important to protect yourself by avoiding people who are sick and staying up to date on your recommended immunizations. 


When you have COPD, a healthy diet can influence the effects of your disease. There is no food that can cure the condition, but paying attention to your nutrition can help you in many ways, including:

  • Maintaining your optimal weight to avoid obesity or weight loss
  • Providing a variety of nutrients, such as proteins and vitamins and minerals to help your immune system 
  • Delivering nutrients that can help your body heal from damage
  • Avoiding foods that trigger allergic reactions or asthma attacks
  • Eating foods that are not contaminated to avoid bacterial infection 
  • Avoiding highly processed foods that lead to inflammation 

If you need guidance regarding healthy eating, consider getting advice from a nutritionist or a dietitian.

Breathing Techniques 

When you breathe, you use energy. But you can learn to make your breathing more efficient. Even though COPD makes you short of breath, breathing techniques and exercises can help you maximize your lung capacity without exerting excessive effort.

Taking deep breaths isn’t necessarily the easiest thing to do, but your respiratory therapist can teach you how to get the most out of each breath. 

Oxygen Supplementation 

Many people who have late-stage COPD need to use supplemental oxygen. If you have low oxygen levels, your healthcare provider might prescribe this for you. While it may seem cumbersome at first, you will feel much better once your body starts to get enough oxygen on a regular basis. 

You may need to have your medical team show you and your family how to use your oxygen device. You might also need to have a visiting healthcare provider come to your home to check on you periodically.

Be sure to follow guidelines regarding the safe use of oxygen supplementation—such as never using your oxygen device near flames.

Emotional Support 

While the physical and medical aspects of your COPD are vitally important, your emotional health is important too. It’s natural to have concerns about your diagnosis. Depression is not uncommon in COPD. 

Make sure you discuss your emotional concerns with your healthcare provider so you can obtain the necessary counseling and/or medication, which are effective ways to improve your emotional state. 

Social Network 

When you have COPD, keeping in touch with your friends and loved ones may take planning. You might not be able to participate in group activities that involve long-distance walking. Don’t hesitate to mention your limitations to family and friends and to ask those who are near and dear to you if they can accommodate you so that you can participate. 

It’s very important that you consider your social needs rather than allowing your disease to limit your interactions. While it may take time and effort to go to gatherings if you are oxygen dependent or wheelchair dependent, your mood will be positively impacted if you are the type of person who enjoys being around others. 

Home Care 

You might need help at home once in a while. Depending on your needs, your medical care may involve a visiting provider to check on you and make adjustments to your oxygen or medications periodically. If you need some help staying on top of your treatments, be sure to discuss your concerns with your healthcare provider or with a social worker.

Deciding Where to Live 

It’s never easy to think about moving out of your own home. If you have a large house or if you need to walk up stairs in your home, it may be impossible for you to take care of yourself at home. While it’s a tough conversation, a discussion with family and the healthcare team regarding moving into a more livable place may be necessary.

An apartment or assisted living may actually offer more freedom than your home if you can get to the kitchen, bedroom, and outdoors more easily.

A Word From Verywell

Life with COPD involves a comprehensive care plan. Whether you are going to take care of your day-to-day health on your own or with help from your family or a visiting nurse, there are a number of issues that you need to consider. 

Be sure to talk to your medical team if your health worsens in any way so that your care plan can be adjusted to meet your needs.

4 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Criner RN, Han MK. COPD care in the 21st century: A public health priority. Respir Care. 2018;63(5):591-600.doi:10.4187/respcare.06276

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  4. Hernández C, Alonso A, Garcia-aymerich J, et al. Effectiveness of community-based integrated care in frail COPD patients: a randomised controlled trial. NPJ Prim Care Respir Med. 2015;25:15022.doi:10.1038/npjpcrm.2015.22

By Heidi Moawad, MD
Heidi Moawad is a neurologist and expert in the field of brain health and neurological disorders. Dr. Moawad regularly writes and edits health and career content for medical books and publications.