Demographic, familial, and social factors have important roles in the process of empowering elderly patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), according to a study published in PLoS One.

For elderly patients with COPD, empowerment techniques are central to reducing the severity or frequency of exacerbations, preventing hospitalization, and improving health-related quality of life.

Zahra Fotokian, from Babol University of Medical Sciences in Mazandaran, Iran, and colleagues included 24 patients with the goal of exploring people’s experiences of the empowerment of older patients with COPD. 

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The following 3 strategies were applied in “managing life with COPD” by elderly patients with COPD, their family caregivers, and professional team members, respectively: “striving to keep abreast of life,” “preparing for battle with disease,” and “helping to stabilize the elder’s life.” The outcome of these strategies was “co-existence with disease.”

The potential of these strategies was “co-existence with ageing,” “personal potential,” “a challenged health system,” and “weak social support.” “Managing life with COPD” enables elderly patients to feel in control and live optimally, according to the researchers.

Striving to keep abreast of life consisted of 5 subcategories: information seeking, learning to lead a life with COPD, participation in care, independence seeking, and promoting socio-psychological capacities.

Preparing for battle with disease consisted of 3 sub-categories: using effective training techniques, accepting the role of the elder family member in treatment, and development of knowledge and professional skills. These ensure that healthcare providers use different ways to inform ill elderly patients and their families about the disease, treatment, diagnosis, physiotherapy and pulmonary rehabilitation, oxygen therapy, how to use Bi-PAP, and self-care.

According to the authors, the family and the elderly cooperate to overcome the disease, as if the disease has become the most important concern of the family and has affected family members’ lives.  Family caregivers of elderly patients with COPD can try to stabilize the lives of the elderly through cooperation with the team, support for the elderly, and improved patient care skills.

“The results of this study showed that demographic, familial, and social factors have important roles in the process of empowering elderly persons with COPD,” said the authors. “These factors occasionally facilitate the empowerment care process and sometimes make it difficult. By understanding these factors, healthcare providers can support elderly persons with COPD in managing to maintain independence in self-care and controlled co-existence with disease.”


  1. Fotokian Z, Mohammadi Shahboulaghi F, Fallahi-Khoshknab M, Pourhabib A. The empowerment of elderly patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: Managing life with the disease. PLoS One. 3 April 2017. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0174028