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One Breath at a Time
One Breath at a Time

As a caregiver to a loved one with COPD, Holly McBain offers a unique insight into the trials and tribulations this disease has on the patient, the caregiver, and immediate family. Over the course of time, Holly and her mother have encountered a wide swath of issues concerning the disease and its effects on the patient and how it also affects the caregiver.

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Welcome to My World

Hi! Welcome to my blog concerning the trials and tribulations as a caregiver for my mom, who has Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease or COPD. I am humbled to be involved with as a writer detailing my experiences as a caregiver to a loved one afflicted with this health debility. The depth of information available at this site is beyond belief and I wish to impart some of my lessons, struggles, and triumphs in order to help anyone in this position and also as a kind of catharsis for myself.

COPD, as defined by the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, is a progressive disease which makes breathing difficult and this difficulty will increase in scope over time. There is no cure for COPD, which affects over 12 million Americans and is considered the third leading cause of death nationally. Smoking is the leading cause for developing COPD and cessation of this habit will increase the longevity of patients ailing with this sickness. Sadly, all too many will continue to smoke until it is physically impossible to continue.

Being a caregiver to someone with a chronic disability is an enormous responsibility. Combine this with the fact that the patient in your care is also a loved one creates additional stress, emotional issues, and accountability. Not only have you pledged to manage the health, well-being, and medical factors regarding your patient, you have the added burden of a strong emotional tie to them. A tie that you cannot break and one you have never taken lightly. As with any caregiver, if you falter at your duties it directly affects your charge.

When my mother was diagnosed with COPD in 2006, I freely, willingly, and blindly rushed in to protect and care for her. She is my mother and I wanted to do whatever possible to ensure she stays in my life for a long time. She was 77 years old back then; today she is 84. She has gone from needing 2 liters of oxygen 24/7 to 6 liters. She takes various pulmonary medicines and nebulizer treatments, all to treat her symptoms. She is thin and frail and we constantly bicker about her eating more to gain weight.

When I took on this endeavor, I had no clue what COPD was, how it progresses, or how to help my mother. I began researching the disease online and began to form a loose idea of the issues that could and do arise. I learned very quickly to ask a myriad of questions from her doctors so I knew exactly what was going on with her health and what I could do (if anything) to help her. I also learned to be very observant of her daily health and if any changes occur (allergies, cold, cough, flu, etc.) I immediately call her pulmonologist. I learned the hard way that even a brief delay in action at the first signs of respiratory illness would result in a hospital stay of at least five days.

Now here we are, several years later, and every day is still an adventure in happiness and terror. I dread taking her breakfast for fear she will not wake. I have to make sure she takes all her medicines by searching the floor for any dropped pills. I have to scold her about not finishing her food and for not telling me immediately if she isn’t feeling well. It is a daily struggle to make sure I know everything that is happening to her health. Besides her pulmonologist, she has a cardiologist, a dermatologist, an endocrinologist, an immunologist, an ophthalmologist, and a general practitioner. Every month she has several doctors’ appointments and usually two or three times per year she ends up hospitalized no matter what I do.

Being my mother’s caregiver is very rewarding and very frustrating. I am her daughter and as such will always be regarded as her child. It took her a long time to understand that she was no longer in charge. She continues to struggle with this. The one important factor in our relationship as patient and caregiver is her trust in my decisions. She knows implicitly that I want her here in this world and will do whatever is necessary to ensure that reality. When it comes to health decisions, she does not question me.

I hope you enjoy this blog and come back again and again to read my updates. My goal is to help others dealing with the complicated issues surrounding caregiving for a loved one. I am constantly researching and learning new information about COPD and its management and I look forward to sharing this with you. Please feel free to comment and ask questions. Thank you for reading.

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Tags: Parent(s) with COPD , Understanding COPD , Caregiving in Your Home , Caregiver Tips , Consider the Patient Too

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About the Author

Since a COPD diagnosis in 2006, Holly has served as the caregiver for her mother Joan.