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Should I Speak Up?

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Dear COPD Coach,
My husband was told he has COPD about three years ago. During his doctor’s visits when asked how he is doing, he always insists that he is fine. The fact is he is not doing fine. Should I tell the doctor my concerns or just stay quiet?

Concerned Caregiver

Dear Concerned,
The role of the caregiver is never easy, but the fact is that the caregiver is an integral part of treatment process. The caregiver can provide the doctor with valuable information that could very much help to improve the treatment outcomes. So, the answer to your question is “yes” – you should voice your observations and concerns.


Oftentimes, the person with COPD is either unaware of various concerns or symptoms or in some cases is in denial. The purpose of the doctor’s questions is to determine if the present therapy is effective, and if not, what other therapies might be more effective. If the doctors do not have the type of information you as a caregiver can provide, then your husband might well not be getting the best treatment!

As a caregiver, it is also important that you become educated on the different facets of COPD. What you learn will not only make your efforts more productive, but can in many cases help ease the burden that you might be experiencing. Since diet and exercise are also an important part of the treatment process, your knowledge in these areas can improve your husband’s overall health and help in mobility issues.

Another important part you can play is with your husband’s medication. For the best possible outcome, it is vital that his medications not only be taken as prescribed, but also taken correctly. A recent study indicated that many patients rarely take their medications when they are required, and that a large number take them incorrectly! Not long ago, a person diagnosed with COPD showed up to one of our lung screenings. She told the respiratory therapist that she felt that her inhalers were totally useless. The therapist asked her to demonstrate how she was using them. She took the inhaler out of her purse, held it to her chest and squeezed it. That might seem funny to some, but the sad part is that it happens all too often.

In addition to these components of helping your husband maintain his health, it is especially important that you learn to spot the early warning signs that may indicate an oncoming exacerbation (times when COPD symptoms flare up).

Ask your husband’s doctor how all three of you can work together to catch small problems early before they become big ones and your husband becomes ill. However, you should also know when to call 911 or go to the ER – sometimes despite doing all the right things, this may still be necessary to help your husband through an exacerbation.

Please never forget that your role as a caregiver can often be harder than the role of the patient. ou not only have to care for your loved one, but you must also take up the tasks he is no longer able to do. On top of all that, often you must become the glue that holds it all together. Difficult…yes! Impossible….No! The more you can contribute, the better your husband will fare. So, learn as much as you can, be observant, and make your voice heard!

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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  • Of course you should speak up woman! You obviously love your husband so if you stay quiet you are helping your husband stay in denial.
    He has COPD. It won't get better, but it will get worse if he doesn't face up to it and start doing all he can to maintain what lung function he now has.
    It may be that he is in denial or the symptoms aren't currently bad enough to stop him deluding himself that it's okay.
    I have a lovely wife. She is a part of me. The better part of me I might say, and I couldn't be without her.
    If your husband is the same, don't nag him (most men hate being nagged even if they know it's for their own good), but try and find people he will listen to about his health. Try and get him to COPD health programmes and go with him if he's agreeable. Get to know the professionals and ask them to speak to him..
    And I wish you and yor husband God's blessings on your life and the best of health possible.

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