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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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Keeping Weight On

My mother is 82 years old and for most of her life she has always been thin and a picky eater. She often likes to say “I don’t live to eat, I eat to live”. However I always see that sentiment thrown out the window when she is presented with a dessert (even though she says she never eats dessert). What it really amounts to is she is worried about putting on weight. She says she sits around all day and if she eats a normal portion, she will gain too much weight.

Currently she weighs 105 pounds and she rarely fluctuates. If she does it is only a few pounds. She is 5 feet 5 inches in height, so you can see that her weight is slightly under normal and yet she refuses to eat a full meal. She only eats half of what is on her plate. One time I tested her regimen by putting half of what I would normally on her plate and gosh if she didn’t eat just half of that half! I was so upset and told her what I did and that her convoluted diet is wrong for her. She is too thin and needs to put on some weight – maybe 10 pounds.

You would have thought I asked her to jump off a bridge. The thought of gaining weight horrified her. She said it wasn’t healthy and yet for some inexplicable reason she thinks being underweight and malnourished is okay. All of her doctor’s tell her she could stand to gain about 10 pounds but she steadfast refuses. I believe she is about 15 to 30 pounds under weight for someone with a small frame. If she falls, there is nothing to cushion her blow, no fat, no muscle, nothing.

If I really get after her about her weight, she will start eating a little more but it only lasts for about 3 days and then she is back to her half-plate diet. What is really upsetting is she will lose about 5 to 8 pounds whenever she is hospitalized and it takes months for her to gain it back. Generally about the time she gains it all back, she is ill again and needs to return to the hospital. I make sure she takes her vitamins and supplements and eats a well-balanced meal 3 times a day, but when she refuses to eat everything, I know she is depriving her body of important minerals and nutrients. Maybe one day she will realize that I do know what I am talking about and start eating like she should.

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About the Author

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