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Respiratory Home Health Care

Respiratory care at home can contribute to improved quality of life and significant cost savings. Your respiratory care practitioner can help you with your treatment, answer questions you may have, provide instructions, and offer suggestions. Here are some tips to ensure that you get the greatest benefit from your respiratory home care.

Get Involved
It is important for you to exercise your rights as a patient. Ask questions of your physician, your respiratory care practitioner, your discharge planner, and if necessary, your home medical equipment supplier. If training is necessary, make sure that you and a family caregiver participate.

Discuss all the options that are available to you regarding your care plan, renting versus buying equipment, and insurance coverage. Provide all the information that is requested about your family and home situation to help your health care provider plan for your care after you are discharged from the hospital.

Safety
Safety for you, your caregivers, and visitors is very important. If you have been prescribed oxygen therapy, you shouldn’t smoke while using oxygen, and no one near you should smoke either. Put up no-smoking signs in your home where you will be using oxygen.

Because oxygen supports combustion, you should stay at least five feet away from gas stoves, lighted fireplaces, candles, or any other open flame. Don’t use flammable products like aerosol sprays, paint thinner, or rubbing alcohol. Keep an all-purpose fire extinguisher nearby, and let the fire department know that you have oxygen in the house.

If you have a cylinder of oxygen, make sure it is in a stand or secured to something solid. The tank is heavy, and if it gets knocked over and damaged, the gas could escape, making the cylinder act like a rocket. If you have long tubing that lets you move about the house, warn visitors so they won’t trip on it. If you have a vessel of liquid oxygen, keep it upright. If it falls on its side, the oxygen will pour out, and it is so cold it could hurt your skin.

Make sure your electrical system doesn’t overload because of the equipment you are using. Use only grounded electrical outlets. Avoid extension cords. Notify the electric company that you have a ventilator or oxygen concentrator in your home so your house will get priority attention if the power fails.

Infection Control
Preventing infections can help the respiratory home care patient stay as healthy as possible. Hand-washing is the single most important thing for patients and caregivers to perform on a routine basis. Use a liquid soap and lots of warm running water. Work up a good lather and scrub for at least 15 seconds (including fingernails). Rinse well, with your hands pointed down to keep the dirty water from running up your arms. Dry your hands with a clean paper or cloth towel. Even if the caregiver wears gloves in caring for the patient, hand washing is required before putting the gloves on and after taking them off. If you have to use a moisturizer on your hands, avoid a petroleum-based product if you wear latex gloves.

Your respiratory care equipment should be cleaned on a regular basis. Besides washing with a mild detergent and rinsing carefully, it is necessary to sanitize your equipment in a vinegar solution of one part vinegar to three parts distilled water. Rinse carefully and let the parts air dry on a clean cloth or towel.

If you use oxygen and there is a humidifier in the system, you need to wash the bottle in warm, soapy water daily and sanitize it once or twice a week. If you have an oxygen concentrator, it is necessary to clean the air filter and compressor filter on a scheduled basis. If you use a metered-dose inhaler or a nebulizer, the mouthpiece should be rinsed with warm water after each use and sanitized as directed by your health care provider.

These are only guidelines, and the specific directions for cleaning and sanitizing your home medical equipment should be part of the instructions you get from your health care provider or your home medical equipment company.

Reviewed: May 26, 2005
Revised:

© 2014 American Association for Respiratory Care