Caregiver Perspectives: Working Together to Cope With Anger and COPD
Finding out you have COPD can be scary and can stir up some strong emotions. Anger is not an unusual response, although a COPD diagnosis can affect each of us in different ways.
The impact of this diagnosis, and its aftermath, is not felt only by the patient, however. Caregivers and family members are also subject to an emotional response. In this article, we’ll look at dealing with anger related to COPD, from both the patient and caregiver perspective.
Reasons to Feel Angry
For the person with COPD, there are many reasons why you might feel anger:
- The expectation that the disease will steadily progress in a downward spiral
- Limitations on your lifestyle and independence
- Lack of knowledge about the disease and its treatment
- Feeling ashamed or guilty that you brought COPD on yourself by smoking
- Fear of what the future holds
- Feeling as though you may “miss out” on things you used to take for granted
- Having others tell you how to live your life when they don’t have firsthand knowledge of COPD
It’s also important to understand that anger can be a sign of a deeper depression.
Caregivers are not immune to anger. First off, if you are dealing with an angry, frustrated spouse or parent, it can take a toll on your own emotions. Second, you may be feeling resentment at being “tied down” to taking care of your person, now that they are more dependent on you. You might also feel that your loved one doesn’t truly appreciate all the things you do to help.
In fact, sometimes caregivers have a tendency to do too much for their loved one. Just because someone has COPD and needs help at times doesn’t mean they want to be treated like a child or an invalid. As a caregiver, you must walk a fine line between being helpful and being overbearing.
Coping Strategies for Dealing With Anger
It’s important to break the cycle of anger in a COPD household. For the patient, anger can interfere with your self care. One study even suggests that chronic anger can have a negative impact on lung function over time. That’s certainly not something a person with COPD wants!
Chronic, unresolved anger also takes a toll on relationships. COPD can already be isolating, especially in the later stages. So, it makes sense to learn how to deal with it, whether you’re the patient or the caregiver.
Here are some tips for coping with anger:
- Gather knowledge. Anger often arises from a lack of understanding. By learning about COPD, we can start to better understand its effects on us. And then the patient and caregiver can put steps in place that will help both to live a good quality of life. Ask the doctor for information on COPD and the treatment plan. Use books or the internet to gain further knowledge, but be sure to seek out reliable sources, such as copd.net.
- Be proactive. Take an active role in planning and executing treatment. This applies to both the patient and caregiver. Work as a team, and hand in hand with your health care professionals as well. When you feel in control, you’re less likely to be angry. Plus, take your knowledge about what’s happening in your lungs and learn how to control your breathing instead of letting it control you.
- Talk about it. Anger will have less power when you talk it out. Both the person with COPD and the caregiver need to keep the lines of communication open — between themselves and with the health care team. Talking to others who have COPD or to those who are also caring for a COPD loved one can be quite affirming. Formal counseling may even be helpful. And, if anger is a sign of a deeper depression, medication might assist with elevating your mood and helping you to cope more effectively.
- Work it out. Stay as active as you can, if you’re the patient. You may not be able to do everything you used to, but you don’t have to stop doing anything. Although you need to accept that life is going to be different, it doesn’t have to be hard. Learn how to do things differently. For caregivers, take time for yourself. Get out for a walk or to the gym when you can. Blow off some steam in a healthy way.
Having COPD or caring for someone you love who has COPD can naturally lead to feelings of sadness, loss and anger. However, when these feelings take over your life, they may interfere with your treatment, your day to day lifestyle and your relationships. So learning how to cope in a healthy way with all that you’re dealing with can greatly improve your quality of life, and perhaps even the prognosis for the future.
- COPD Foundation. Coping with COPD. https://www.copdfoundation.org/Learn-More/I-am-a-Person-with-COPD/Coping-with-COPD.aspx. Accessed 5/31/18.