Taking a Time-out

An estimated 15 million people in the United States have been diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The disease affects over 24 million Americans and ranks as the third leading cause of death in the United States.

Are you caring for a loved one with COPD? You can find comfort in knowing that you are not alone by listening to the experiences of your fellow caregivers in the CAN network.

You may find new ways to help your loved one manage and cope with the disease, as well as advice on how to balance the many responsibilities of being a caregiver.

Sandy Bowers introduces herself and her husband who has COPD.

Sandy Bowers:

If you’re getting ready to become a caregiver, I think the very first thing you need to know is what care your loved one needs.

You have to prepare yourself mentally and emotionally to be a caregiver and some people that’s not a natural transition. It’s something that you really have to work at.

I’ve learned about myself in the role as caregiver that I can do things I never ever dreamed I would be able to do. I can give somebody a shot. That never in a million years would have crossed my mind.

When Gary was injured I had worked in Winston Salem for 13 years at a law firm. And at that point, I could not be gone from 8:00 in the morning until 7:00 at night every single night and so I quit my job to stay home and take care of him. That’s the biggest life change I’ve made.

We used to be very active in the community, we went out a lot, we did a lot of things outside of the home, whereas now we don’t go out as often as we do, we occasionally have friends over here and frequently watch movies, eat popcorn, just have our own little gathering in our own home.

I do a lot of things for my husband. His memory is not very good so I’m very involved with daily medication, cooking, cleaning as well as helping in his mobility, because he has major neuropathy in both feet so sometimes he can’t feel where he is walking.

I think he’s had a difficult time transitioning into being dependent on anybody or anything. He was so independent for so long and did what he wanted to do and some of the things that he would want to do now are physically beyond what he is capable of.

Since I became a caregiver, there are some things that have changed about me. I think I am probably more compassionate and more observant and more empathetic to the feelings he has physically and emotionally all the time…

When you are responsible for caring for someone else, you have to force yourself, you have to make time to address your own needs. You cannot allow yourself to be 100% consumed in the caregiver aspect and neglect your own needs or you will get burned out and just, you can’t do it.

The most helpful resources for me have been the community of caregivers that I’m friends with because these are the people that understand what you are dealing with… I have a book club that I go to that sometimes talks about books and sometimes talks about other stuff but its, you know, it’s a gathering of my friends talking about something other than home. I like to recharge my batteries. I go, actually one of my favorites is to go get a pedicure. It’s just so relaxing and you don’t have to talk to anybody, you just sit there.

Creating New Routines
A caregiver describes taking on new responsibilities as her husband ages with COPD.