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Concerns of a Tired Caregiver

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Dear COPD Coach,
My husband has COPD, is on oxygen and was diagnosed about two years ago. Since he started using oxygen he sits all day in his chair and expects me to wait on him “hand and foot.” We are both in our early 70’s. He calls for me to bring him something to drink or eat, and even to bring him his paper or reading glasses. Just the other day he wanted me to swat a fly that was bothering him. I understand he is not able to do all the things that he used to, but he is just exhausting me! I know he can do more than he is letting on because every afternoon he grabs his oxygen tank and takes off in his car to hang around with his friends for several hours. After he gets home, it is back to the chair and me having to constantly wait on him. I want to be a good caregiver but I am frustrated. What should I do?

-Tired Caregiver

Dear Tired,
Ok, this question kind of makes me feel like Dear Abby, but in any case, here are my thoughts.

Individuals who are diagnosed with COPD often become somewhat depressed, and instead of doing the things they are still able to do, they choose to do nothing. The worst thing that a person with COPD can do is become inactive. In fact, many COPD patients strive for some degree of independence adjusting how they go about tasks while learning to ask for help with those tasks they are no longer able to do.

TiredCaregiver Taking off every afternoon to visit with friends tells me you husband is not quite as sick as he leads you to believe. To continue to wait on him “hand and foot” will do nothing but encourage him to continue to expect the same level of care from you. The best thing you can do you him, and yourself, is to encourage him to do tasks he is able to do. First, speak with his doctor to find out exactly what limitations he may have, and then use that information to “draw a line” as to what you can and should do for him. If he is able to walk to the car dragging an oxygen tank, he can certainly get himself a drink or swat a fly.

The work of a caregiver can be quite taxing and even exhausting. It is very important that you have time to yourself to rest and relax. It’s important for physical health, as well as the health of your relationship, that you talk with your husband and explain that you cannot accommodate his every need. Express to him that you must still take care of yourself. Tell him that while you realize he can’t still do all of the things he used to do, you still need him to do the things he is able to do. If he asks you to do something you know that he is able to do, ask him to do it himself. If a fly is bothering him, by all means bring him a fly swatter, but leave the swatting to him!

Try to encourage him to take short walks with you, or go shopping even if he just sits in the front of the store or in the car. If something needs fixing that might be difficult for him to do, at least ask him to help or if nothing else, help by directing you.

People with a chronic disease like COPD need to feel that they are still vital, as well as remaining a part of the family dynamics. Sometimes it may seem like you are walking a tightrope, but as a caregiver you need to do everything you can to make sure your husband remains as active as possible, and most importantly that you take care of the caregiver. In the end, you both will be healthier for it!

Best regards,

The COPD Coach

Ask the Expert is aimed at providing information for individuals with COPD to take to your doctor, and is not in any way intended to be medical advice. If you would like to submit a question to the Coaches Corner email us at We would love to hear your questions and comments. You can address your emails to any of the following: COPD Coach, Caregiver Coach, COPD Doctor or COPD RT.


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  • If this individual continues to baby himself by sitting in chairs all day, whether at home, in the car or chatting with friends, he's going to die sooner than he should. Inactivity is the worst possible thing a COPD patient can do. Tell your husband to get off his behind and exercise at a gym for at least an hour for at least three times a week. The body needs to be in good shape in order to slow the progression of COPD.
  • My mom is 70 post lung cancer lobectomy (5yrs) now she is on 24/7 oxygen. End stage COPD. My question is, do people intentionally manipulate their caregivers to suit their needs be it company or something from the store? She does have true needs but the things she needs help with she won't accept. When things don't go her way she takes to the couch, doesn't eat or clean then we are all concerned and she's saying she's ready to die for a week or a couple of days but then a day later she pops up like a jack rabbit and is able to do for herself. Sometimes this occurs when my sister goes on vacation for a couple of days mom takes to the couch and I do all for her (that she'll let me) and when sis comes back she's better all of a sudden. I love my mom, I'm there at the drop of a hat, go places with her but I can't help but feel manipulated once in awhile. Could she be playing with her medications? I had a consult with her hospice social worker and she says that we pretty much have to accept that type of behavior because her time is short but there is a point for tolerance before negative feelings start to surface.

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