Our Pulmonary Center of Excellence Has Launched! Interview with Respiratory Therapist at EECC, Tim Olsen
October is Pulmonary month, and at Elmhurst Extended Care Center, we are celebrating by launching our Pulmonary Center of Excellence in partnership with Integrated Respiratory Solutions and ALC Home Health. In honor of the center’s launch, we sat down with our in-house Respiratory Therapist, Tim Olsen, to learn more about how pulmonary and respiratory illnesses affect older adults.
What is the most common respiratory problem you see among older adults?
The most common respiratory problem I see among older adults is shortness of breath due to one factor or a combination. I frequently work with patients that have shortness of breath with walking or exercise. The feeling of breathlessness is sometimes due to lack of exercise, being deconditioned, a lung problem like pneumonia, or a heart problem.
What types of therapeutic solutions do you offer for residents suffering from pulmonary or respiratory issues?
Depending on the illness, I help them breathe better with breathing exercises and instructing in use of prescribed inhalers. About 60% of clients that use inhalers don’t use them correctly, so getting the maximum benefit from the inhaler is important. Most clients are fine when resting. When they walk – working with our physical therapists to improve strength and endurance – or climbing stairs, they get short of breath. Helping them normalize breathing when they get short of breath helps them do the activity and not feel as short of breath.
Do you have any tips for preventing pulmonary disease?
First, don’t smoke. If you do smoke, quit now.
Second, choose your parents wisely. Just kidding. But it’s important to know that some breathing problems are genetic, placing residents at higher risk for breathing problems.
Third, get the flu shot and wash your hands several times per day. (Of course the usual times, before eating, after the bathroom, and after using your phone or keyboard.)
Lastly, don’t smoke. Tobacco companies have had hundreds of years to perfect an addictive drug delivery system.
What are 3 signs and symptoms someone should look out for that signals the onset of a pulmonary or respiratory infection?
Children get a fever with an infection. As we age, we may not have a fever with an infection. Frequently, the first sign of a respiratory infection is fatigue, increased cough, or a productive cough (a cough with colored phlegm).
What do you enjoy most about being a part of the Elmhurst Extended Care Center family as the resident Respiratory Therapist?
Engaging with the residents about their goals to return home is what I enjoy most. Frequently, after short term rehabilitation, they return home stronger and with better endurance than before the event. Working with the knowledgeable patient care staff and enjoying the sense of community between the residents and staff comes in at a close second.