a woman in three scenes, each she is nervous and panicked in the car with her oxygen tank in the front seat

Combating Vulnerability With COPD

I have always been aware of my surroundings when I went out alone. Part of that caution may have come from my job as a real estate appraiser. Many times I would have to be in a high crime area or appraise a vacant building. I wasn’t terribly fearful about it, but I was careful.

Solutions for the home

Now that I have COPD and use oxygen, I have found myself very fearful of going out alone. I feel very vulnerable if a stranger comes to my door. My doors get locked as soon as my husband leaves. I am not obsessive about it, but my husband noticed, so maybe I was a little. When I couldn’t quite explain my fear to him, he quickly figured it out. Since I get out of breath so easily, I feel I can’t defend myself.

We live in a safe neighborhood and know our neighbors, so we have always been very lackadaisical about security. My husband took my anxiety seriously and has begun steps to increase security. Deadbolt locks have been added to doors and extra locks for windows. Motion sensor lights are placed in a few of the darker areas of the yard. I am unsure about installing an alarm system but am researching a video-type doorbell. I also wear a medical alert necklace which can be used for non-medical emergencies including calling the police.

Solutions for going out

Stopping the fear

Going out alone is a work in progress. I have not driven in six years, but still hope to. If I get too short of breath, I don’t like the idea of asking strangers for help while I am gasping for air. My husband knows what to do and how to calm me down quickly. That is not how I want to live life. I don’t like having that fear. I know having the capability of being more independent will stop many of the fears.

Superstore shopping

We do our shopping in a couple of superstores. I use a mobility scooter because the store is so large. My husband wanders off or goes to the store cafe for coffee, leaving me to shop alone. It's the first step to more independence. I am discovering that worrying about depending on strangers is unwarranted. By the time I get through the entire store, at least three to four people will ask if they can help me. One time the scooter I was riding ran out of the battery charge, leaving me in the middle of the store with a basket of groceries. The first person to stop and ask if I needed help was a woman using a walker.

The steps I need

The next step I have taken is to go to the craft store while my husband leaves me and goes a few stores away to the hardware store. Then I will start driving with him in the car, eventually getting myself into a store without him. I know it seems like a lot of work, but these are the steps I need to take to feel comfortable and safe on my own.

I would love to hear from the community your thoughts on this subject. Do you still drive? If not, are you taking steps to drive in the future? Are you working towards more independence?

Do you feel less secure since your diagnosis? Have you increased the security in your home?

Editor's Note: We are heartbroken to share that Carol passed away in February of 2022. Carol's storytelling and advocacy will be deeply missed, but her legacy lives on through her articles and in all the people she inspired.

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