Questions for Your Pulmonologist
If you have been recently diagnosed with COPD, you may be feeling like you can't do anything that you used to do. There is a mystery behind the new label that you've been given, and somehow it seems that you have lost control of your life. If this sounds like you, you are not alone!
Develop a plan to thrive
One of the more daunting tasks to most COPD patients is communicating with the pulmonary physician. Many times there is so much information being shared that confusion is easily the result after the office visit is over. However, this is one place that you can define your new boundaries and develop a plan to thrive within them.
When you are sitting in the doctor's office, trying to take it all in, be prepared with questions (also a pen, paper, and a voice recorder) that will give you the ability to make better decisions for yourself. Here are a few questions to consider.
Questions to ask
Are there any restrictions concerning what I am allowed to do?
It is possible that your doctor does not recommend as many restrictions as you have given to yourself. Use this time to become familiar with your restrictions and what to expect if you do not adhere to those recommendations.
Once I have completed my respiratory therapy, may I choose exercises that I enjoy, like water-based exercises?
Most likely you will be referred to a respiratory therapist. This specialist will teach you the best ways to breathe that will control shortness of breath. They will also teach exercises that will work to keep your body as strong as possible within your limitations. However, this may not remove activities that you enjoy. Some activities such as water-based exercises and walking may, in fact, be encouraged. Speaking with your doctor will help you to know what is best for your situation.
Where can I get involved in a support group?
Some people will never go to a support group, even if it is needed, but if you are feeling the effects of dealing with COPD and all that it brings, a support group may be exactly what you need. Your doctor will be able to recommend groups in your area. Getting involved in a support group, even online, may be beneficial to you as you are able to speak about what is going on in your journey with COPD, but even more amazing will be the times that something you have gone through helps someone else.
May I travel?
This is a huge question for so many people. For some, travel was spontaneous and full of adventure. For others, planning a long vacation with the kids and grandkids was the adventure in itself. You may be wondering if you will be able to continue traveling. Your doctor can be the gauge for your traveling spirit. If you go only on your own feelings, you may either never leave your home or you may push yourself too hard. It is important to ask this question, and if you get a green light, go!
What is your role as my disease progresses?
Your doctor probably told you that he/she would be there with you through the end, but over the course of time, you may have noticed that it's hard to get an appointment with the doctor that you have grown to love. It is good to understand who will be your physician in the event that he/she is not on call or completely unavailable in your time of need. If you know this in advance, you will be able to prepare yourself for an unfamiliar face in the hospital. By asking in advance you can learn which of the partners your doctor recommends to best fit your needs.
There is no real control in life, not for the chronically ill and not for the young healthy person either. The control that we think we have is only a facade of reality. All that we really have is the ability to become informed. Then we can take that information and use it to make plans and work within our reality.
COPD.net compiled a list of questions for the doctor. Take this document with you to your next appointment to remember important questions and to jot down notes!
Do you live with any sleep disorders (eg. insomnia, RLS, sleep apnea) in addition to COPD?