The Weight of Care
There is no way to fully describe how you will deal with everything as a caregiver. There are so many variables from what your relationship was like before becoming the caregiver to exactly how the disease progresses. For some people, COPD is just one of many health problems, and it could be the least of them, depending upon the severity and stage. For others, COPD is the problem in its entirety.
Different sides of grief
There are logistics and the “how to” of it all. Then there is the emotional side. Personally, I felt that the emotional side was much harder than anything else. The grieving process takes place all along the journey. There are times that an exacerbation reveals that a new normal is coming, and in it there will be a time of grieving. There is grief for the loss of health, and there is even a sense of grieving for what you may see coming in the future.
The beginning of the journey
At the beginning of this journey, the weight of care is not as heavy. I have come to equate it to the process of having a child. I know you might be thinking how can something like that come close to relating to being a caregiver. Stick with me here. Could you imagine giving birth to a teenager? Thankfully that does not happen. We are able to go through the process of seeing an infant become a toddler, a toddler become a child, a child become a preteen, and a preteen become a teenager. At each stage it seems like the new set of problems make managing it all very difficult, but the process of going from infant to teenager equips you as a parent along the way. Each step builds upon the other, and the love that grows along the way will help during those high hormonal teenage years (at least that’s what I’m counting on).
Now look at being a caregiver for a COPD patient. There are less major problems in stage 1 than stage 2. The things that you learn in each stage equips you for the challenges of the next stage. Ultimately in the end stage, as things are getting harder, you are able to look back at the other stages and realize that you were being prepared all along the way.
Another example is weight training (*this is not an example of training for COPD patients*). Your trainer would never make you carry a 50 lb. dumbbell across the room while doing lunges on your first day. You would probably start off carrying nothing. However, as you continue to improve your trainer may begin adding weights. Eventually you are carrying more weight than you ever dreamed across the room.
The weight of care is heavy, but as we are conditioned for it, we begin to see that we are able to carry it. One other important thing to know: you do not have to carry it alone. Allow family and friends to share this load with you. Talk about your own fears and cares. The weight of your loved one's care will be more bearable if you are not trying to carry all of yours and all of theirs.
I would like to also encourage you to join our community. You will find other caregivers here as well as those living with COPD everyday. Together we can help each other better understand this disease.
How has your experience been navigating the healthcare system as someone with COPD?