What Does a Respiratory Therapist Do? Does My Loved One Need a Respiratory Therapist?

You’ve likely heard of or perhaps worked with a physical therapist and an occupational therapist. Yet how about a respiratory therapist? Just what do people with this in-demand job do, and will your senior loved one ever have a need for a respiratory therapist? Here’s the scoop on respiratory therapists.

A respiratory therapist is a person who helps those with trouble breathing. This may include those with:

  • Asthma
  • Bronchitis
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder
  • COVID or the aftereffects of COVID
  • Emphysema
  • Lou Gehrig’s disease, or ALS
  • Lung cancer

Respiratory therapists aren’t doctors, but they will work closely with doctors in a hospital, senior living facility, and other medical facilities. This includes working with pulmonologists.

Some things that a respiratory therapist will do are:

  • Check how you are breathing if you’re using a machine like a ventilator
  • Give inhaled medication as needed
  • Test your lungs and breathing
  • Help you understand your condition and how to treat it at home

The demand for respiratory therapists is expected to grow 14% from 2021 to 2031, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. It’s a fast-growing career area. This growth is connected to the expanding number of older adults in the U.S. as well as people retiring from the profession.

Usually, respiratory therapy requires an associate’s degree, although some states are in favor of candidates with a bachelor’s degree.

If you or your senior loved one is staying in a hospital, the medical staff will have you work with a respiratory therapist as needed to improve and monitor your breathing. If you have a chronic condition where your breathing may need more assistance, ask your loved one’s doctor if a respiratory therapist is needed.

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