When a person is diagnosed with COPD, often a loved one becomes a carer, sometimes in a sudden moment, for others over a gradual period of time. The goals of carers for persons with COPD are to minimise disability progression and enhance quality of life.
Carers commonly provide the following support:
These include household chores, administration and finance management, and personal care such as shower assistance.
There can be a myriad of emotions in no particular order or intensity that a person with COPD experiences. Often being listened to is just what’s needed. Persons with COPD may also have feelings of uselessness or low confidence and finding ways for them to remain involved in matters can be uplifting. Consider social activities that can be undertaken to remain connected to community and positive.
When you become a carer, you are part of the person’s care team. You are their encourager and coach to achieve their health-related goals. It would be beneficial to learn about COPD itself and signs of disease progression and flare-ups for the individual. Accompany them at appointments to support and advocate for them as needed, be knowledgeable about their symptom experience and management strategies, and encourage compliance with daily disease management regimes. It’s also helpful to think about how you might support them during a recovery from a flare-up such as understanding the new changes to medication prescriptions and supporting them with task prioritisation and activity pacing.
Caring for the carer
Being a carer can be fulfilling but may also be challenging. Much of your focus will be on the person with COPD and it is important to take time to consider yourself and take action to look after yourself in this role.
Support and advice can be found for carers of all people with chronic conditions in Australia at Carer Gateway. You can also learn more about recognising the signs and avoiding burnout.
The value of carers
Having a role as a carer for someone affected by COPD may not always seem rewarding. Seeing your loved one experience difficulty breathing can be stressful and even traumatic. A decline or loss in independence over time can result in frustration, anger and poor mental health for both parties. This may result in a lack of gratitude being expressed towards carers. It does not, however, imply that people with COPD lack the appreciation for the vital role played by carers. Watch Ian’s story below for further insights into this issue.