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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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Be a Proactive Caregiver

What exactly is a “proactive caregiver”? To me, this means I take the initiative at every step; especially with doctors. Why? Because I am not a doctor, nor a nurse, and I want everything explained to me so I understand exactly what is going on, wrong, or needed for my Mother. I do not have the luxury of knowing every possible scenario that might occur and therefore I need to know what is happening, the possible reasons for it, and what treatment options might be required.

Many times I have encountered a problem with a doctor briefly explaining the situation and the course of action to take. I have learned that I must ask right then and there what that means. What do these lab results indicate and why? Are there other treatment options and how effective are they? I can tell by their expression whether or not the doctor is comfortable answering and there have been several instances where it was painfully obvious that they were not. However, I have to know so that I can logically explain everything to my mom. If I don’t understand I can’t help her to either. 

I also need to be proactive with the medical suppliers who take care of my mother’s needs by supplying medicines, oxygen, medical devices, and aids. I call them if there is any delay in their supply refill request and I make sure to always have extra tubing, lanyards, humidifying bottles, and breathing mouth pieces. I also have an oxygen bottle ready should the electricity go off (as it often does during thunderstorms).

I am vigilant when it comes to getting her prescriptions refilled or renewed, performing maintenance on medical equipment, and in ensuring her overall well-being. She has regular doctor’s office visits with her Cardiologist, Pulmonologist, ENT, and Dermatologist. I plan ahead for these by being prepared for any event that might occur. I always bring an extra oxygen bottle (just in case), pack a bag with some hygiene products, and put in a few snacks and bottled water.

I religiously check her vital statistics every morning and make sure she eats a proper meal three times a day. It is imperative she drink plenty of water, fresh fruits, and so on. I cannot be slack in my duties because if something is missed or put-off, she could become very sick. At her age (84) and having COPD, getting sick can happen very easily and it could rapidly become life-threatening.

I am a proactive caregiver because I want my mom here with me for as long as possible and in order to see to that, I must become a nosy, pain-in-the-butt daughter who fights for my mom to continue to live. I already lost my father-in-law to COPD and I know one day my mother will succumb to it as well. But the more proactive I am about her health, disease treatment and management, the longer she stays.


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About the Author

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