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Dad First, COPD Second
Dad First, COPD Second

Elizabeth provides support, insight and guidance for caregivers.

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I Turn the Light On, He Turns it Off: How I Get Dad to Exercise

Elizabeth's father turns out the lightsThe other day, installers came to replace the kitchen cooktop. I noticed my father had the men “in the dark.” I immediately turned on the lights so the men “could see better.” My father took his walker and proceeded to turn off all the lights I had just turned on. Innocently, he sat down in his spot at the kitchen table.

I wanted to scream and laugh in the same breath.

When the men left, I asked dad, “Hey, what happened to your exercise regimen? You were doing so well. You need to continue.” I realized that I had also forgotten to stay abreast of dad’s daily breathing exercises. I reasoned, “At least he continues his walks down the long hallway.”

Following his last hospitalization for COPD, a nurse was assigned to my father. For several months, she made house calls. She checked his oxygen levels, his blood pressure, and took notes as she observed him while he did various exercises, such as stretching, walking, and of course, breathing. She complimented his good work as more oxygen flowed into his lungs. She showed him the best way of exercising, assuring he was wasn’t overexerting.

It was a good thing I asked because it prompted dad to look for his “materials” and his exercise instructions. In the interim, I said, “I have another exercise plan for you. I’ll turn on all the lights in the apartment and you have to follow me around to turn them off.”

Clearly, I was joking. An energy conserver – just like dad – I wouldn’t disrespect our power sources. Unlike him, however, I prefer light to total darkness. Nevertheless, it was a tempting idea to get him moving.

I read some articles about exercise and COPD (right here on Healthline.com) and shared them with my dad. I knew he wouldn’t bite. “Liz, I’m too overweight, too out of breath, and too old.” I told him that yoga and meditation are also options. He knows they are new ventures for me and responded with “Lizunga, I appreciate it, but that’s not for me. Thanks for trying.”

The good news: he did start his regimen again. His arms ache; he swears he will quit…

He has two more packs to go. We’ll see how that works out.

As for his walks, I have something to confess: He walks because he gets his fix on. 

Follow Elizabeth's story on Twitter: @lizunga

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About the Author

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