What You Need to Know as a COPD Caregiver
Caregiving can disrupt that person's life. Especially in the early stages of the new relationship with the patient, it is not uncommon for both the patient and the caregiver to feel a loss of control. The patient may feel that they are becoming a burden. They may feel that they have lost self-worth because they cannot do activities that they once enjoyed. For the caregiver, the new duties can challenging. One of the most important things you can do as caregiver is to be informed. Educating yourself about COPD and your role can help you feel better prepared for your duties as a caregiver. It will ultimately benefit the overall health and well-being of your loved one. There are many resources available to support caregivers and help them stay informed. Family, support groups, and caregiver companies can offer services and advice.
Caregiving and the Shared Care Team
One of the best resources is your loved one's health care provider (physician, nurse practitioner or physician's assistant). Working as a team with your loved one's health care provider is helpful for both the caregiver and patient. The "shared care" treatment approach lets patients, caregivers and health care professionals work better together in helping to manage your loved one's COPD. As a caregiver, you play an important role in your loved one's shared care team. The caregiver and the patient must act as the "best advocates" for the patient's health. No one else knows how the patient is feeling daily.
Your Role as Caregiver in Helping To Manage COPD
By tracking symptoms and finding triggers that worsen the disease, you can also help your loved one and your loved one's health care provider recommend a treatment plan. A COPD patient's treatment plan may include pulmonary rehabilitation, daily medical treatments and/or oxygen use. COPD medication devices need to be used in the correct way to make sure the patient receives the right amount of medicine. The caregiver should know the proper way each device is used and help your loved one as needed. If your loved one has any problems using a COPD medication device, you and your loved one can speak with his or her health care provider about considering other treatment options.
COPD is a progressive disease which means it will get worse over time. As a caregiver, it is important that you are aware of the signs of COPD progression. Some signs t at COPD has become more sever include:
- Symptoms, such as shortness of breath, wheezing or chronic cough, have worsened
- Increased tiredness
- Reluctance to exercise or do activities that were done more easily
- Experiencing more frequent flare-ups and trips to the hospital or clinic to treat COPD
- An increased struggle in getting around the home, such as going up and down stairs
- Trouble doing daily activities, such as dressing or showering
- Increased depression or anxiety, especially when faced with stress of any kind
- Not leaving home due to COPD symptoms
If you notice your loved one's COPD has gotten worse, you and your loved one should contact his or her health care provider to discuss these changes and new treatment choices.