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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Developing Good Communication

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Over the years as a caregiver, I have learned it is extremely important that my Mother tells me how she is feeling. It is also important that I pick up on any cues that are indicators of potential medical issues. Although I am not as thorough as a nurse, I do take the time every morning to check her vitals, ask her how she slept and how she feels. I do this because I am still not completely comfortable that she will tell me immediately if she is getting sick.

It took several trips to the hospital, lots and lots of arguing and guilt-trips, and developing a habit of always running a health check every day in order for the communication skills between my Mother and I became a reality. She resisted at first because it felt like an invasion of her privacy and independence, and actually it is. At first, she was afraid to tell me because she didn’t want to go to the hospital; however it was precisely that waiting that would land her in intensive care. As someone who suffers from COPD, any allergy or sinus issues will cause drainage into her lungs and exacerbate her COPD. This can and does happen within just a few days. In fact, we have discovered that as she has aged and her COPD progressed, the time it takes for the exacerbation to occur is quicker and quicker.

The trick is to get her to tell me when she begins to feel sick. Not wait and see, not wait a few days, not wait even one day, but tell me the instant she feels different. Then I can assess what is going on and call her Pulmonologist letting him know and have some antibiotics sent. She usually requires two courses (different types) of antibiotics to prevent any deterioration in her health or stave off a COPD exacerbation.

Back to the privacy issue with telling me; imagine you are in your early 80’s and you have to report your every feeling to your daughter. I believe at times it is much harder on her than me because she has to relinquish being in charge to someone else who also happens to be her daughter. She knows I am trying to take care of her but she doesn’t like not being in control of her destiny. She gave up a great deal when she moved in and I guess this is the last little bit of independence she can grasp on to and want to keep.

As I said, it has taken several years to get to this point where she instantly tells me when she begins to feel sick. She may have lost some independence but she gained not going to the hospital as often. The last two times she had allergies affect her sinuses, she let me know immediately and I was able to get the necessary medicines to keep her from getting pneumonia and completely lessened the COPD exacerbation.

Communication is critical to staying healthy and living longer when diagnosed with COPD. Any changes in your health should be addressed immediately. Not only to try and prevent a hospital stay but also to possibly save your life. It is just that critical.

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Tags: Caregiver Tips , Parent(s) with COPD , 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.

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