Taking care of elderly parents in their homes often means working around portable medical equipment. If your parent’s physician prescribed medical oxygen for oxygen therapy, some of this medical equipment might include large oxygen tanks, portable tanks, a nasal canula to wear in the nostrils, and many dozen of yards of oxygen tubing.
Avoiding problems with the oxygen delivery means keeping a close eye on the tubing and nasal canula while the oxygen is being used. Adult children who are caring for elder parents in their home may find these tips helpful:
1. Check the connections periodically. Oxygen is normally delivered via a long plastic tube which is attached to the oxygen cylinder at one end and to the nasal canula unit on the other end. Since movement can pull the connections apart, these connections should be tested periodically during the day to ensure that oxygen is not escaping from the seams.
2. Clean the nasal canula regularly. Gunk in the nose can block the tubes which can slow down the delivery of oxygen. The nasal canula should be cleaned with warm soap and water then rinsed thoroughly at least once or twice a week. It should be replaced every two to four weeks.
If the patient experiences dryness under the nose, a water soluble lubricant can help. Do not get the lubricant on the mask or nasal canula.
3. Check often for twists, bends, crimps, and breaks in the tubing. While oxygen tubing is designed to be strong and flexible, occasionally it can twist up and pinch off the flow of oxygen, especially if the tubing spends most of the time in a tight coil. Oxygen tubing should be visually inspected several times a day for crimps in the line or signs of damage. Damaged or pinched tubing should be replaced promptly.
4. Do not drape the tubing over hot surfaces. Appliances such as space heaters, portable radiators, and wood stoves generate enough heat to melt oxygen tubing. When this happens, oxygen is no longer able to reach the patient.
5. Loosely coil the tubing when not in use. The whole point of being supplied with extra long tubing is so the patient can freely walk around the house. However, when the oxygen is not in use or the patient has switched temporarily to the portable canister, all that tubing should be gathered up in a loose coil and placed in a safe location near the oxygen cylinder.
6. Tape the tubing to the headboard at night. If the patient must wear oxygen at night, it helps to tape the tubing to the headboard to avoid entanglement. Be sure to provide enough slack so that the patient can turn to either side comfortably.