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Dad First, COPD Second
Dad First, COPD Second

Elizabeth provides support, insight and guidance for caregivers.

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Dressing Dad: How COPD Takes the Little Things

Elizabeth Santeramo's father holding a long shoehorn that helps him go about his daily tasks with COPD. Whenever we have an outing, mom gives dad an extra 20 minutes to get ready because he needs it. His COPD takes over. and even small activities like putting on clothes, socks, and shoes becomes an overwhelming task. Besides being a bit overweight, overcoming physical on-the-job injuries, and getting on in years, it’s unsettling how COPD can take away the simplest of things – like getting dressed.

The routine that ensues goes something like this: following mom’s announcement, dad starts shaving. This already sets him back a few minutes as he should have already been doing that, but that’s dad. Then, he combs his hair like the actors slicked back their fine dark hair in those classic black and white movies. He shuffles between the bathroom and the bedroom. Mom is there to help him. I can hear his lungs asking for extra time even from as far away as the living room.

But my father is resourceful. He has tricks he uses. For one, he sits in his bedroom chair to dress. He manages with his pants and shirts. He adjusts his suspenders for the extra support. For chilly days, mom puts on his socks. And here comes his fun trick: he uses a long shoe horn that has a tiny hand on one end which proves not only useful for putting on those big shoes for his big feet, but for scratching his back, his legs, and I’ve even seen him scratching his face and head with it. Once, he even used it to comb an unruly curl.

Once he’s done his part, I hear his call for help. Either my mom or I assist with that finishing touch of adjusting his shirt collar. And then, we help getting that jacket on…and fixing the collars once again.

He’s a trooper, no doubt.

I realize how strenuous this is for him. Once done, he reaches for his walker and makes a pit stop in the kitchen where he gets his water bottle from the fridge for those coughing moments. He makes sure he has his wallet, coupons for food shopping, and his “man bag.”

Just for today, he manages.

Among his other fun tricks? His walker carries his and mom’s belongings and his cane not only pushes the elevator button for it to come, but he also uses it to keep the doors from closing on his lovely leading lady.

He’s got style.



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About the Author

Elizabeth cares for her mother, a diabetic, and for her father, who suffers from COPD.