This article is aimed primarily at those who care for COPD patients. The patients themselves also should read it. With luck, it might just result in a little better communication between the patients and those who spend so much time in their care.
COPD is a scary, complicated disorder. There are so many different levels of breathing difficulty, so many medications to keep track of, so many signs to watch out for. Being a COPD patient can be a lonely business. It is easy to fall into depression, a feeling of “why me?” Unfortunately, these feelings can also befall the caregiver.
Some suggestions for caregivers:
• Take, steal, demand some time for yourself. Total devotion to the patient, without an hour or even a few minutes of “me” time can lead to exhaustion, to resentment.
• People with COPD or other chronic illnesses can grow frustrated and bitter. Please try to keep the lines of communication open with them, and try not to take comments personally.
• You must take care of yourself. Take your own medication and keep your doctor’s appointments. If you fall ill, everything gets harder. For everybody.
• If someone offers to do something to help either of you, ask if you can add their name to a list. If nothing else, ask them to stay with the patient so that you can grab some time for yourself.
• You are not perfect (as hard as that may be to believe). That being the case, please do not dwell on things that you should have done, do not blame yourself for things that are not under your control.
• Find sources for help, both for yourself and for your patient. The Internet is a great source for support and information. The COPD Foundation also has a call line staffed by COPD patients and caregivers at 866-316-2673.
— Jim Nelson is a former Glenwood Springs resident who works with regional and national cardiovascular and lung organizations.