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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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The Emotional Toll COPD takes on the Patient

My father-in-law passed away in 2010 from COPD and I helplessly watched him wither away. The last 6 months of his life were the most emotionally stressing for him and for those who loved him. Each passing day he would grow a little weaker and required higher and higher amount of oxygen. No one wants to die and he certainly wished his life was taking a different path that the destruction course it was on. He had a wife, a son, a daughter-in-law and two beautiful grandsons, all of whom adored him. He wanted to be here for all of us.

That is where the emotional toll sets in. No one could stop or slow down the progression of the disease and the closer he came to death’s door, the faster his health declined. It is as if the body can only take so much resistance and once it can no longer resist, the disease accelerates into action. He spent the last 6 weeks of his life in the hospital, desperately clinging to life. His precious grandsons visited him once (violating the hospital rules) and they both so wanted their Grandpa to get well and come see them. All of us prayed for this miracle but we knew in our hearts it would not happen. 

The day before he passed away, it was my mother-in-law’s birthday. I called and asked him if he would like us to get a gift that he could give her and he gratefully accepted. The nurse on duty shaved him and gave him a sponge bath and combed his hair. He looked so much better than he had and he was so happy to have a present to give to his wife. We stayed for a while and then had to go. That was the last time we saw him alive. The next day he passed away.

Even now as I think back, I know he did not want to leave us but his body could no longer handle the lack of oxygen. He was on 18 liters when he died.  His lungs could not process the oxygen into his blood stream any more. I miss him very much and not a day goes by that I don’t think about him and wish he were still here with us. He is in our hearts but I want him whole, alive and well still here in the present.

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About the Author

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