Ask the Advocates: Advice for Friends & Family
How can friends and family help someone living with COPD?
Just being empathetic and understanding can be very helpful. COPDers may become fatigued and short of breath, and not look any different. So, understand that they are not faking it, and are not just being lazy. They may sometimes have trouble performing simple chores around the house. Helping out with these chores can go a long way to helping someone feel better about themselves. And let them know that you are happy to help out.
The biggest help that a family member or friend could offer would be support, someone who will listen, and care. Someone who is willing to give a hug, even when the COPDer isn’t very loveable. Someone that will help with errands, surprise their COPDer with an ice cream cone and offer to go over to dust and help with other cleaning every so often. Maybe even to provide a meal. One of the biggest things though is to treat their COPDer with respect, to value their thoughts and wishes.
The most helpful thing friends and family can do for someone living with COPD is to listen to and believe them. When the patient says they're too tired to do something, believe them. When the patient needs to cancel plans, believe them. When a patient says they're depressed and anxious, listen to them. Most of all, listen to them and believe them when they say they do not like being sick and would change it if they could.
I cared for my mom in my home during her last 4 years with COPD. It was challenging for her to have had to give up her independence. At the same time, she was really grateful to have someone she could depend upon as needed. I think the key is just to be there for your loved one with COPD. Allow him or her to be as independent as possible, but be available and willing to step in as needed. For my mom, she was able to care for her daily needs in terms of personal hygiene and preparing breakfast and lunch. But I helped her with twice-weekly showers, with laundry, with grocery shopping and other errands. I also cared for her oxygen equipment. It's also important for caregivers to learn all they can about COPD and what to expect as time goes on so that you can advocate for and support your loved one through all the stages. And finally, caregivers need to take time for themselves regularly. You won't be available to help your loved one with COPD if you run yourself into the ground. It's OK to take time off to rest and recharge your batteries.
First and foremost, family and friends should be understanding. They should listen to the COPDer about their problems and let them vent their frustrations. Then there are physical things like cutting the grass or cooking an occasional meal, such as a casserole. A night out is always helpful as well!
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