While many people are aware of the role physical therapists play in older adults’ lives, the job of a respiratory therapist isn’t always as clear. In honor of National Respiratory Care Week, we want to help seniors and their families learn a little more about this important form of therapy.
From helping older adults cope with chronic illnesses, like emphysema and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), to assisting a senior who is recovering from pneumonia, here’s how respiratory therapists play a vital role in healthy aging.
What is Respiratory Therapy?
Respiratory therapists are a group of health care professionals who help people of all ages with issues related to breathing. There are two levels of respiratory therapists:
- Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT): CRTs complete either a two-year associate’s degree program or a four-year baccalaureate degree program at an accredited college. After graduation, they are required to successfully pass a national written examination to earn their credentials.
- Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT): After a respiratory therapist has successfully passed the written exam, they are eligible to take a national voluntary clinical simulation examination that leads to the highest accreditation level, a Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT).
You will find respiratory therapists working in a wide variety of locations including:
- A hospital emergency room, assisting patients with life-saving breathing treatments after problems such as an asthma attack or automobile accident.
- An operating room, monitoring a patient’s breathing as they undergo a surgical procedure.
- A physician’s office, conducting testing to evaluate a patient for a pulmonary-related illness, such as asthma or pulmonary fibrosis.
- An inpatient rehabilitation center, providing treatment to a senior who has a chronic health condition or is recovering from a short-term medical crisis.
Respiratory Therapists and Seniors
Because older adults are more likely to live with chronic health conditions, they are a population respiratory therapists often provide assistance to. Older adults with weaker immune systems are also at higher risk for short-term illnesses, such as bronchitis and pneumonia.
A few of the diseases that often require intervention by a respiratory therapist are:
- Lung cancer
- Interstitial Lung Diseases
- Sleep apnea
- Cardiac disease
- Chest trauma
- Cystic fibrosis
Common Causes of Respiratory Diseases
What can you do to protect your lungs and to help your senior loved one do the same?
Here are a few suggestions from the American Lung Association:
- If you smoke, stop. Smoking is one of the leading causes of respiratory-related illnesses.
- Avoid secondhand smoke. Many older adults who have respiratory illnesses live with or previously lived in a home with a smoker. Research shows secondhand smoke can be almost as deadly as smoking.
- Prevent infections from developing by getting your flu shot every year and washing your hands frequently.
- Exercise regularly. It’s one of the best ways to improve your lung capacity.
- Avoid indoor and outdoor pollutants, such as strong chemicals in household cleaners or weed killer.
- Have your home and your senior loved one’s home checked for radon. According to the EPA, prolonged exposure to radon gas may cause lung cancer.
Living Well at Sunrise
Live with Action is one of the 8 Signature Programs at Sunrise Senior Living. Because we understand how important physical activity is to aging well and maintaining healthy lungs, we make that easier for residents to do each day. From Chair Yoga to Tai Chi, the options for staying active are plentiful.
We hope you will take a minute to enjoy this video of our Live with Action program. It is just one example of the vibrant life residents enjoy every day at Sunrise!
Source: Sunrise Senior Living