COPD 101: Staying Independent vs. When to Accept Help

When you have a chronic health condition such as COPD, there can be a fine line between staying independent and accepting help. Most of us want to care for ourselves and not have to depend on others for as long as possible. After all, this is what we are trained for from early childhood, right?

But when your body loses its ability to function in a totally healthy way, staying independent can become a challenge. Sometimes staying as healthy as possible will require that you accept help, at least some of the time or with certain activities. Being stubborn and insisting on doing everything you have always done, to the detriment of your health, may not be the smartest approach.

Staying Independent for as Long as Possible

I’m not advocating that you give up and become dependent on others, just because you have COPD. Quite the contrary! It’s important to stay as independent as you can for as long as you can.

Doing so will make you feel more in control and generally happier with your life. And doing things for yourself — within the limits of your abilities — will keep your muscles toned, your heart strong, your mind active and your lungs functioning at their best capacity, given your illness.

But when you push yourself to or past the point of exhaustion… or when you can no longer care for yourself properly… it may be time to ask for help.

When to Ask for and Accept Help

It’s important to maintain your activities of daily living. These are things like daily personal hygiene, bathing at least weekly, making meals, staying as active as you can, and taking care of your personal environment.

When it’s hard to breathe, these tasks become more challenging. Balancing your periods of activity and rest may make it possible for you to still get through these tasks on a regular basis. But if you can’t, it’s time to ask for help.

Other activities, such as the heavy cleaning of your house, yard work, grocery shopping and so on may be the things that fall by the wayside sooner than your personal care tasks. You will definitely need to accept help in those areas as time goes on.

How to Get Help

If you have a good social support system, hopefully family or even friends will step forward and assist you. Don’t be too proud to ask or accept their help! Doing so will help you stay healthy longer. And it may help your family cope with your illness, knowing that they are making a contribution. Plus, it can be an opportunity to connect with your loved ones in a significant way.

If you belong to a church, your congregation may be able to help you. There are also paid services you can hire from home health agencies. You will probably not need a private duty nurse, but a home health aide (sometimes called a home care aide or nursing assistant) or a companion or homemaker may be of assistance, depending on what you need help with.

If you are over the age of 65, your local Office on Aging can be of assistance in locating the type of services you need.

In summary, accepting help is not a sign of weakness or failure! It is a sign that you take your health seriously and that you know accepting help in certain areas will help you stay independent in other areas for as long as possible.

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