COPD Patients Improve Their Quality of Life Through Specialized McLaren Flint Program

Pulmonary Rehab Helps Patients Get Back to their Former Selves

Author: Sherry Farney

An estimated 15.3 million Americans suffer from COPD, and several additional millions likely have COPD and don’t even know it, according to the American Lung Association. Early diagnosis and treatment can help people with COPD improve their quality of life and health.

COPD is a group of diseases that cause airflow blockage and breathing problems including emphysema and chronic bronchitis, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC). Symptoms of COPD include chronic or smokers cough, chronic phlegm production, shortness of breath, and wheezing.

COPD can cause difficulty with physical activities like walking and climbing stairs. People may not be able to work or engage in social activities and may experience increased confusion, memory loss, depression, or other mental or emotional conditions. All of this can lead to more emergency room visits or overnight hospital stays.

McLaren Flint’s Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program is designed to assist individuals with pulmonary impairments to improve their quality of life. This means returning them to the highest possible functional capacity allowed by their particular cardio-respiratory impairment. This individually tailored, multidisciplinary program fosters independence through education, compassionate care, physical therapy, reconditioning exercises, group support and other innovative rehabilitation approaches. The program is designed to be visible, accessible and affordable to mid-Michigan residents.

“Our program helps people with all sorts of lung problems get back to their life prior to the onset of their illness,” said Lynne Leach, registered respiratory therapist at McLaren Flint. “It is a great place to connect with people who have similar problems and concerns.

“Our program includes education about breathing techniques, respiratory muscle training, oxygen, respiratory medications, early warning signs, cough techniques and ways to prevent respiratory exacerbations and infections.”

The Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program is primarily for individuals suffering from chronic lung disease or respiratory impairment due to other physical conditions. The program is designed to return patients to their highest possible level of health.

With the help of the pulmonary rehabilitation team, patients set goals for themselves and learn how to avoid situations, which can worsen their conditions. Patients also learn when it is appropriate to seek medical care for unexpected complications, while improving their overall health and well-being.

“We have supervised exercise classes which are tailored to each individual’s needs,” said Leach. “There is a real fear of shortness of breath and exercise, so we guide patients through these sessions using the fable ‘The Tortoise and The Hare in which the tortoise is known as our mascot, where slow and steady wins the race.

“We also work with patients on chest expansion exercises also known as respiratory muscle training, where people learn how to get the very important respiratory muscle, the diaphragm, to work better for them. This allows people to have less shortness of breath while moving around. Another benefit is improved ventilation in the lungs which is very helpful with illnesses such as COPD, interstitial lung diseases, and especially post COVID-19 pneumonia.”

Once a patient completes the supervised program, McLaren Flint offers its  Maintenance and Wellness Program.  This program helps to avoid complications such as hospitalizations, but more importantly, it helps patients maintain improved function and general well-being.

Participation in all phases of pulmonary rehabilitation require a doctor's prescription. For more information about the McLaren Flint Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program and ways to get started, please call 810-342-5370.