a man with an oxygen tank pulls out a chair for an older woman, as another man pulls out a chair behind him - implying we all need assistance.

From Someone With COPD to a Caregiver

Caregivers are angels here on Earth. When my dad went into hospice, I was able to care for him for the last ten days of his life.

Experiences with family

My dad didn’t have COPD, his was colon-related. Years before, he said that if something happened to him, he wanted me to be his nurse. He brought it up while in the Florida hospital, as well as the one in South Dakota too. That was the most important thing I could ever do. In the last five days, the most important care became respiratory and cardiology.

My mother-in-law had COPD, yet her cancer is what was took her life. She had been in so much pain. One evening she told me to take her favorite pup, which was the last one of her three dogs to pass away. We knew her time was close then. She had a friend staying with her who went back to her home. My husband and I settled in. It was time for us to stay there. She had been in so much pain. Again I was blessed to be there. She passed away a few days later.

I carried the guilt

During these times, I thought of you, the caregiver. You, the person who cared/cares for your loved one, be it full-time or part-time. This can be a pleasant time or it can be a difficult one as a caretaker.

My mom passed away a couple of years ago from two types of cancer. Because of my health, those closest to me all agreed that physically, I couldn’t do it. I would hear, “If mom would fall, then what? Who will pick you up? You can't - you fall yourself all the time.” Well, that shut me up. Later I talked to mom about moving here but that wasn’t for her. Nor was a retirement home or assisted living. My daughter moved in to care for her. She did for one year, then my mom passed away. I carried the guilt of not being there.

Put on your mask before helping others

Through everything, I thought of you, the caretaker. You who has done this for a couple of weeks, one day, a year, or ten years. Full-time or part-time. Some have told me that they are tired, others lost. Some say that it’s the best thing that they could do. It can be normal to feel tired and overwhelmed. It can be emotional. You might feel that you have a purpose.

Have you heard the steward/stewardess going over the safety features before a flight? When he/she tells the passengers what to do if something goes wrong? Usually one of the first things discussed is when the oxygen masks fall down to each passenger. You are then told to put your mask on you first, then on others. This is because if you can’t breathe, you can’t help anyone else. That’s true.

Those who care for others often put everything else above themselves. I’ve heard some say that they are tired. They are upset because other family members don’t step up to help. They feel guilty for feeling upset, for feeling like failures, and for feeling tired. Let me tell you, I’m thinking of you, the caretaker.

Grab that oxygen when you need it

It’s important to grab that oxygen when you need it. Ask for help. If you can’t get help from those you know, a nearby agency might be able to help with adult home care. They might come in for an hour, or even a full day. Do a trial first. Maybe then you will see how your loved one gets along, and find out it’s okay.

Please, take care of yourself too. Find a support group, either face to face or even online. Know too that we are with you too. This is a heart issue too, from someone with COPD to you, a caregiver.

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