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Living with COPD: November 4, 2013

In one year, Betty Williams spent more days in the hospital than some people do in a lifetime.

“When I get bad symptoms, I can hardly breathe. I wheeze; I’ve been five or six times almost dead. That’s when they put you up in ICU” says Betty Williams, COPD patient.

She is one of a growing number of Americans suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD. A lung condition, it causes over-production of mucus leading to coughing, shortness of breath and wheezing. And is a top cause of hospital readmissions.

“The statistics are alarming, nationwide on average nearly 40% of patients who were discharged after being treated for an attack of COPD end up coming back to the hospital within 30 days,” says Dr. Sagar Naik, pulmonologist with Lee Memorial Health System.

Under a program called Care Transitions, Lee Memorial Health System is offering COPD patients a way out of the cycle. Sending respiratory therapists to their home for an evaluation and teaching patients self-management skills.

“Usually we spend an hour or two with them in the hospital. When we get to their homes, and we try to go within three days of discharge, we spend an average of 4 to 5 hours,” says Joan Carroll, Director of care transitions with Lee Memorial Health System.

Williams requires oxygen, so her therapist looked for safety issues. Then reviewed her medications, nutrition needs and built an action plan.

“Whether it’s a nurse’s aide or transportation issue or food services, our goal is to make sure that they are safe at home and have everything that they need to live a better lifestyle,” says Carroll.

It’s worked. Williams hasn’t been in the hospital since.

“Last time I was in there was July – that’s good for me,” says Williams.