“Living Well with COPD in a COVID World”

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COPD Support Ireland Hosts Virtual Wellness Conference for People with
COPD to Mark World COPD Day

– From Singing to Sleeping, Conference Highlights How
People with COPD Can Better Mind Their Physical & Mental Health –

– Almost 500,000 people over 40 years’ old living with COPD in Ireland –

– Prof. Brendan Kelly writes “Top Five Tips for People with COPD (and
Everyone!) to Protect Their Mental Health during COVID-19″ –

“We know we are going to have a surge of COVID-19 and so we need to do
what we can to avoid the seasonal surge of COPD exacerbations”
– Dr Maitiu Ó Tuathail, General Practitioner

COPD Support Ireland, the national umbrella group for COPD support
groups nationwide, is to host a virtual wellness conference for people
with COPD on Saturday November 21 (1-4pm). The conference “Living Well
with COPD in a COVID World” takes place in the same week as World COPD
Day (November 18) and will see speakers address a range of topics,
from minding our mental health to having a better night’s sleep, from
winter preparedness to singing for better lung health. People with
COPD can now register for the conference free of charge at www.copd.ie

It is estimated that there are almost 500,000 people over 40 years of
age living with COPD in Ireland1. COPD, or Chronic Obstructive
Pulmonary Disease, is perhaps more commonly known as chronic
bronchitis and emphysema, and is characterised by breathlessness and
persistent coughing with or without phlegm. It is the third leading
cause of death globally2, with exposure to tobacco smoke and other
environmental toxins the main risk factors for developing the disease,
alongside family history and having chronic asthma. COPD is the
commonest disease-specific cause of emergency hospital admissions
among adults in Ireland1. Ireland also has the highest rates of
hospitalisation in OECD countries1.

Among the topics and speakers to feature at the conference are:

“Wintering well during a global pandemic” – Dr Maitiu Ó Tuathail,
General Practitioner
“SingStrong: singing for better lung health” – Dr Róisín Cahalan,
Lecturer in Physiotherapy (UL) and Ciara Meade, Sing Strong
facilitator and MA Community Music
“Staying calm and protecting our mental health” – Prof. Brendan
Kennelly, Consultant Psychiatrist
“How to have a better night’s sleep with COPD” – Dr John Garvey,
Consultant Respiratory Physician
“Managing our COPD during COVID-19” – Michael Drohan, Waterford COPD
Support Group and Kate O’Connor, COPD Self-management Support
Co-ordinator
“What the National Clinical Programme means for people with COPD” – Dr
Desmond Murphy, Consultant Respiratory Physician

To coincide with World COPD Day, a COPD information pack has also been
developed, incorporating a COPD & Me booklet, a Living Well with COPD
During COVID-19 leaflet, and a COPD communication card. It can be
ordered for postal delivery free of charge by texting the word “COPD”,
plus name and address to 51444 (standard network charges apply).

Avoiding a Surge of COPD Exacerbations
Dr Maitiu Ó Tuathail, General Practitioner, is urging people with COPD
to do three things to keep three steps ahead of COPD this winter:
“Before this pandemic ever arrived on our shores, COPD was already the
biggest cause of disease-specific emergency hospital admissions, and
we already had the highest hospitalisation rates for COPD in OECD
countries. We also know that each winter we have increased emergency
admissions to our hospitals, and that respiratory conditions play a
key part in this. This year with COVID-19, it is clear that we need to
do our utmost to support people with COPD in staying well and, most
importantly, staying out of hospital. We know we are going to have a
surge of COVID-19 and so we need to do what we can to avoid the
seasonal surge of COPD exacerbations.

“There are three things I would urge people with COPD to do this
winter to stay well. Number one, make sure to get your influenza and
pneumococcal vaccinations. Number two, make sure you have an adequate
supply of your medication, which may include a back-up supply of
antibiotics and steroids. And number three, don’t delay in seeking
help. GPs and hospitals are continuing to see patients during
lockdown, so if you feel unwell, we are here to help. By taking these
actions, we can play a real part in keeping three steps ahead of
COPD.”

Mental Toll
Joan Johnston, National Co-ordinator, COPD Support Ireland, believes
that the pandemic has had a huge impact on the mental health of people
with COPD:
“Everyone has had a difficult time dealing with the current pandemic,
but for people with COPD, it has been truly challenging. As one of the
groups that is particularly at risk when it comes to COVID-19, many
have had to isolate themselves from the outside world for months on
end to keep safe. When they have gone out, for many it has been with a
sense of fear and trepidation. Indeed, our 33 COPD support groups
around the country have been unable to meet face-to-face since March.
People are merely existing until there is a vaccine and it has taken a
huge toll mentally on all of our members.

“That is why with our virtual wellness conference we wanted to focus
not only on supporting the physical health of people with COPD in
managing their symptoms but also on how we can support them to better
deal with the psychological consequences of life during this pandemic.
We will have experts providing tips specific to people with COPD on
the coping strategies they can adopt to support their mental
resilience. We will even have tips for a better night’s sleep and a
singing lesson to improve breathing, fitness and overall well-being.

“Of course, not everyone is familiar with computers and applications
such as Zoom. That is why we would encourage family members to support
the person with COPD in their lives in accessing this conference. We
have also linked up with Age Action Ireland to ensure that those
registering can be put in touch with Voluntary Tutors to support them
with their digital literacy and in ensuring that they can participate
in the conference without difficulty. We would encourage people to get
in touch with us early if they need this support.”

Top Five Tips for People with COPD (and Everyone!)
to Protect Their Mental Health During COVID-19 –

by Brendan Kelly, Professor of Psychiatry at Trinity College Dublin

Follow the public health guidance. It applies to you. Adhering to it
will minimise your risk, protect other people, and help keep your
anxiety in check. Stay informed, but do not obsess. Limit your media
consumption about the virus to 15 minutes twice per day focused on
reliable sources such as the Government of Ireland and World Health
Organization websites (www.gov.ie and www.who.int). Don’t fill in
knowledge gaps with speculation or random musings on social media.
Public health advice is based on the best available knowledge. Trust
it.
Focus on what you can control. It is useful to think of the well-known
environmental slogan, ‘Think Global, Act Local’. Small actions, like
hand-washing, matter greatly, both in the bigger picture and in our
own lives.
Talk about your feelings. If you want to be heard, listen. At a time
of high anxiety, it is especially important that we label our feelings
as emotions rather than facts, and that we engage in direct, truthful
communication. No matter how difficult it might seem, the truth is our
strength. Remember, proportionality is the key. Anxiety and panic can
seem infinite, but nothing is truly infinite.
Do other things. While social distancing, self-isolation and general
anxiety can place certain limits on our activities, there is still
plenty that we can do, both inside and outside. Eat well, pay
attention to sleep, go outside when possible, and do some exercise.
Also, find an activity that absorbs you and wipes all your worries
away to refresh your mind – consider running, meditating, yoga, or
knitting!
Reward yourself. Recognise your achievements and consciously practice
compassion for yourself and others. The current situation is difficult
for everyone in different ways. Balancing sadness with hope is a real
challenge, but it is possible. Focus on daily activities, short-term
plans and cultivating compassion for everyone, including yourself.

Prof. Brendan Kelly will be speaking at the forthcoming COPD Support
Ireland virtual conference, “Living Well with COPD in a COVID World”.
He is the author of Coping with Coronavirus: How to Stay Calm and
Protect Your Mental Health. The e-book costs €1 and proceeds go to the
Irish Red Cross.

The “Living Well with COPD in a COVID World” virtual conference has
been kindly supported by GlaxoSmithKline, A Menarini and Astra Zeneca.

For more information on COPD, including a COPD information pack, visit
www.COPD.ie or call the COPD Advice Line on Freefone 1800 83 21 46
(Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm) to receive a call-back from a
specialist respirato

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