COPD Caregiving: Caring for the Patient and Yourself
COPD Caregiving: Caring for the Patient and Yourself
Information for Patients with COPD and their Caregivers
This information was sourced from leading COPD health and advocacy organizations. This is general information and should not be taken as medical advice. Please consult with your treating physician if you have specific questions about your COPD or general health.
Caregiving for someone with a serious medical condition isn’t easy. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) patients can be especially difficult to care for because COPD is a progressive disease that gets worse with time. It’s important to know which form of COPD the patient has in order to be evaluated for the appropriate treatments.
How to Help with Caregiving
Learn about COPD
If someone is suffering and you wish to take care of them, you need to know what they’re experiencing. Emphysema and chronic bronchitis are two different forms of COPD.1 You can have one or both. It’s important to know which form of COPD the patient has in order to be evaluated for the appropriate treatments.
Know the signs and symptoms1
Symptoms are key to understanding COPD. Common COPD symptoms include shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing, excess mucus production, and chest tightness. Monitoring their symptoms can tell you when you need to call a doctor. In general, you should call a doctor when your patient has:
- Excessive trouble breathing during simple, everyday activities
- More coughing/coughing-related chest pain than usual
- Increased mucus production or a change in the appearance of the mucus
- Swelling in the hands or feet
- Extreme fatigue or weakness
- Trouble sleeping related to shortness of breath
Help them quit smoking2
One of the main causes of COPD is smoking. If your patient continues to smoke after developing COPD, encourage them to quit. Studies show that quitting smoking slows the disease’s progression and lessens the severity of the symptoms.
Encourage them to be active2
Exercising with COPD can be difficult at first and seem counterproductive. But exercise is very important to strengthening your patient’s respiratory system. Have them consult their doctor before starting. If exercise is safe for them, you can inspire them by exercising with them or encouraging their efforts to stay physically active.
Keep their home safe2
Keeping the indoor air clean and the home COPD friendly are important. Changing the air filters regularly and minimizing dust and pollen can be helpful. Heavily scented products can cause flare-ups. Avoid air fresheners, scented candles, and harsh, heavily scented cleaners. Making a home COPD-friendly is important because even the smallest of tasks can cause breathlessness for your patient. You can help by simplifying their living environment and making sure every room has a chair.
Accompany them to their appointments2
If they have a doctor’s appointment, go with them. Take notes to help them remember what the doctor said and be there for moral support if they need it.
Help them manage their medication2
Depending on your patient’s symptoms and the severity of their COPD, they may be on multiple medications. As their caretaker, you can keep track of their pills and make sure they take them at their specified time. You can even create a chart for their medications so they can view their own schedule. View an example here.
Caregiving for Yourself
It’s important to be there for your patient, but you need to be there for yourself as well. Your mood can greatly affect your patient’s mood. If you’re not taking care of your physical and emotional health, your mood will be affected as well.
Follow a healthy lifestyle1
Experts recommend that exercise and diet are a great way to stay healthy. Moderate to vigorous aerobic activity every week is suggested as well as a good night’s rest every night. If you choose to exercise by going on a walk, bring your patient. If you make yourself healthy foods to eat, share some with your patient.
Learn how to manage your stress3
It’s hard to be there for someone when you’re feeling stressed. Stress may even cause you to become agitated or burned out. Meditation, yoga, deep-breathing techniques, regular exercise, and sleep are all great ways to reduce and manage stress. Common signs that you are taking on too much stress include:
- Feeling sad or worried
- Low energy levels
- Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
- Gaining or losing weight
- Losing interest in hobbies or social activities
- Becoming easily angered
- Frequent headaches
Find a caregiving support group4
Being a caretaker is not easy, but you aren’t alone. Support groups can provide validation and encouragement. Support groups provide advice for how to handle difficult situations with patients, stress management, and the knowledge that you’re not alone in your struggle as a caretaker.
Take some you time3
Spending a few hours of your time or even a day investing in yourself is important. You can try to pick up a new hobby, continue an old one, or spend time with your friends. No matter how you choose to spend it, taking time for yourself can help alleviate stress.
It’s not selfish to admit when you have too much on your plate. If you’re feeling overwhelmed as a caretaker, reach out to friends or family. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
- “Caring for Someone with COPD.” Caring for Someone With COPD | COPD.com, copd.com/copd-support/copd-caregiver-information/.
- Higuera, Valencia. “How Do I Help My Loved One Manage Their COPD?” Healthline, Healthline Media, healthline.com/health/copd/helping-your-loved-one.
- “The COPD Caregiver.” COPD Foundation, copdfoundation.org/Learn-More/I-am-a-Caregiver/The-COPD-Caregiver.aspx.
- Griffin, R. Morgan. “Caregiving Tips for a Loved One With COPD.” WebMD, WebMD, webmd.com/lung/features/caregiving-tips-for-a-loved-one-with-copd.