The official blog of the Lung Institute.
Whether you’re a spouse, family member, trained professional or friend, assuming the role of a caregiver for someone with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or lung disease is not an easy task. Unfortunately, the most commonly reported health problems for caregivers revolve around symptoms of depression. We know that the stress of taking care of someone else each day can be detrimental to your mood and overall health. That’s why we’ve put together a list of tips for a COPD caregiver.
Important Tips for a COPD Caregiver
The following are some important tips to help you handle the complicated COPD caregiver relationship and take care of yourself.
Tip 1: Take care of yourself too.
Often, caregivers are so focused on taking care of the patient or loved one that they lose sight of their own health. Eat healthy, make time for exercise, and sure you’re getting enough rest each night. If you want to set a good example for the person you’re caring for, be that role model. Take good care of yourself. Boosting energy will also improve your overall mood. We know it’s tough, but try not to let your patient’s bad day rub off on you.
Tip 2: Wait an hour.
Individuals who are dealing with chronic pain and discomfort can often take their bad mood out on those around them. If you’re caring for someone that is especially snappy with you, take it with a grain of salt. Often, patients report feeling guilty when they take their pain out on others, especially their caregiver. Remember, the pain associated with lung disease is very real and can sometimes cloud your patient’s manners and emotions. If your patient or loved one snaps at you, give it an hour and then talk about it. We’re all human. We all get upset and make mistakes. Just like with any good relationship, communication comes first. Calmly discuss with your patient how their actions made you feel. Both parties will feel better in the end.
Tip 3: Control your stress level.
The chronic stress of caring for a loved one with lung disease could potentially lead to your own health issues. Stress has been known to cause high blood pressure, diabetes and immune problems. Is your stress level through the roof? Take some time for yourself. Go on a long run, or practice yoga or meditation to release some of the stress of your day. If you’re not up for exercising, read your favorite book or watch a good movie to take your mind off things. The person you’re caring for might enjoy a movie too!
Tip 4: Have your own goals.
Don’t let being a COPD caregiver consume your life. You aren’t just a COPD caregiver. You are a smart, incredibly strong, compassionate and giving person with your own life goals and dreams. Take up a hobby in your spare time. Have you always wanted to learn how to paint? Now is the time. Remember that project you said you would do? Get started. Not only will you be motivated, you will also reduce your stress level, and might potentially motivate the person you’re caring for too. We know that being a COPD caregiver is a full-time job, and this might be easier said than done.
Tip 4: It’s OK to ask for help.
You’re not super human and no one expects you to be as a COPD caregiver. Taking care of someone with severe lung disease is a very time consuming job. If you don’t take a break every once in a while you will end up getting sick, and that will be bad for you and your patient. It’s OK to ask for help. You might be surprised how many people wouldn’t mind taking over for a day or two. Does your patient have a friend that he or she doesn’t see very often? Ask this friend if he or she would like to come over for a weekly lunch? By just taking an hour or so for yourself once a week you can significantly improve your mood. You might even find that your patient enjoys the little vacation too. If your resources are exhausted, try looking into temporary care options at local churches or community centers. Many hospitals also provide free (or inexpensive) medical care during the day.
Tip 5: Join a support group.
Let us reiterate this fact because you might need to hear it again—you’re not alone. There are countless people going through the same exact obstacles as you. Take to the internet, and look up a local support group in your area. You will be able to connect with people in similar situations, make friends that understand, and might even be able to find some extra help. Just by talking to someone about your day you can reduce your stress level and lead a healthier lifestyle.
Tip 6: Remember, you’re a hero.
One thing we hear over and over again from patients is that their COPD caregivers are their heroes. Without you, your patient would have limited options. It takes a special kind of person with a strong mind and heart to be a COPD caregiver. Pat yourself on the back, pour yourself a glass of wine (or whatever beverage you desire) and take a minute to reflect on your accomplishments. Most people have enough difficulty taking care of themself, let alone taking care of someone with a chronic illness! From all of us at the Lung Institute, we applaud you! You are a hero!
Need more help?
If your patient isn’t responding well to his or her conventional treatment, stem cell therapy can help. At the Lung Institute, our autologous stem cell treatments have been proven to improve patient’s quality of live and help reduce their symptoms and breathe easier.