Breathing machine (ventilator) at home

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This handout tells you things you need to know to use a breathing machine (ventilator) at home.  

Important numbers  

• Doctor who knows your health problems:

– Name of doctor: _______________
– Phone number to call: _______________  

• Lung doctor (pulmonologist):
– Name of doctor: _______________
– Phone number to call: _______________  

• Oxygen or breathing equipment supplier: ___________________
– Name of supplier: _______________
– Phone number to call: _______________  

• Nurse to call for questions or problems:
– Name of nurse: _______________
– Phone number to call: _______________  

• Emergency care:
– Emergency care phone number: _______________
– Emergency care location: _______________   

Get your home ready

• You will need to get your home ready for a breathing machine:
– Make space for the breathing equipment and supplies.
– Call your electric company and tell them you have a breathing machine. Ask to be put on a list to restore your electric in case it goes out.

• Have a phone you can use in case of an emergency.

• Ask your doctor if you can use a battery powered machine.   

Find the help you need

• You will need to have 2 people who are trained to help you. They can be family members, or paid nurses or respiratory therapists.

• Let your doctor know if you need more help at home.

Learn to use the machine safely 

• Talk to your doctor about what you will need to know to use the breathing machine, such as:
– Safety rules for using oxygen equipment
– How to maintain the machine
– How to use settings on the machine
– How to use suction equipment
– How to take care of your tracheostomy and tube  

• Ask your doctor how to take medicines when using the breathing machine, including:
– Pills and shots
– Nasal sprays or nebulizers
– Intravenous (IV) medicines    

Have the supplies you need 

• Basic equipment and supplies:
– Portable ventilator and supplies
– 2 suction machines and hoses
– Battery, cables, and case
– Alarms and switches
– Aerosol delivery system
– Nebulizer kits
– Tracheostomy tubes
– Resuscitation bag, mask, and tracheostomy adapter   

• Backup equipment and supplies:
– Backup battery
– Apnea and bradycardia monitor, for infants
– Back up oxygen supply
– Back up ventilator, if you use a lot of oxygen every day or need to travel a long distance
– Back up tracheostomy tubes
– Back up resuscitation bag with properly sized mask and tracheostomy adapter   

• Check with the oxygen equipment supplier every month to make sure you will get your supplies on time.

Get regular checkups  

• Visit the doctor every 2 or 3 months. Go more often if needed.

• Get a chest x-ray, electrocardiogram (EKG), or echocardiogram every year.

• Get your tracheostomy checked at least every year.   

Plan for an emergency

• Ask your doctor to help you make an emergency plan. You should have:
– Phone numbers to call in an emergency
– Directions to an emergency care location
– Transportation in case of an emergency

• Have the electric and phone company put you on a list for emergency outage service. You may need a letter from your doctor.

• Let the fire department know you have a breathing machine at home.