It can be alarming and depressing to learn that you or a family member needs to use oxygen. But with the right equipment it can become so much a part of daily life that the patient takes it for granted and stops worrying about it. Your doctor or specialist will assess your oxygen needs and ensure that the correct amount is supplied.
Obviously the first consideration must be the reliability and ease of use of the supply. One solution is the traditional liquid oxygen canister. This is useful for those who suffer occasional breathlessness and don’t need to use oxygen all the time. You have to be aware of the usage and be ready to switch tanks as soon as necessary but the supplier will make all this clear to you. The canisters can be awkward and heavy to move about, so may not be the answer for a person who is frail or lacking daily help.
For long term health problems, especially if oxygen is needed at night time, an oxygen concentrator is probably the best solution. It plugs into the household electricity supply and is separately metered, so that your energy supplier deducts the cost from your bill. It does make a slight humming noise but you soon get used to it and it won’t disturb your sleep. The system can be ‘plumbed in’, with tubing running around the house so that, for example, it can be used in a bedroom and a sitting room. If you qualify for such a system, home oxygen will be organized for you by the NHS and supplied by your local contracted company. Fitting engineers are very sympathetic and knowledgeable and will explain everything in the simplest terms. You needn’t worry about breakdown, because a back-up cylinder is provided.
Unless the patient has become bedridden, there’s no need for him or her to be permanently confined to the house. Portable cylinders, also available through the NHS, contain a limited amount of oxygen but allow the patient to leave the house without fear. This is particularly useful if a hospital appointment has to be kept but also allows the sufferer the freedom to have a little outing in a car and escape those four walls at home.
A serious health problem can be frightening enough, without extra worries. Home oxygen equipment such as the oxygen concentrator and the portable canister make life easier for the patient, his or her carer, even for someone living alone by improving their confidence and freedom.
Michael Richards is writing on behalf of Pure O2, specialists in Home Oxygen and Portable Oxygen Concentrators