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Managing Lung Disease

By Cheryl Ellis, RPFT, CRT, Staff Writer

(Page 2 of 2)

ADJUSTING TO CHANGES

Family members and loved ones can have a difficult time with COPD diagnosis, treatment and day-to-day activities. Meals and medication schedules may have to be changed to assist the loved one with maintaining their health. Where meds and meals could be delayed or possibly skipped until a “convenient” time, a stricter schedule may have to be adhered to, delaying family activities.

Friends may not understand a progressive intolerance to certain odors from cleaning solutions, pets or colognes. The COPD patient may have adapted to exposure to some environments, but once diagnosed and advised on making changes, it may be less tolerable.

Mrs. Valorie Bender has been diagnosed with COPD, specifically emphysema, for fifteen years. She and her husband Michael had a number of adaptations to make during the first few years after her diagnosis.“Michael is a lot taller than me. If he sprayed air freshener or any kind of spray, I knew to stay out of the room until he was done.” Any spray releasing aerosol will have droplets that can be breathed in. Mrs. Bender learned to stay away from the area until the droplets had settled to avoid the mist penetrating her lungs.

She goes on to explain that adapting to COPD comes over time, and requires some creative thinking. With over a foot difference in height between the Benders, they are able to spot smokers to steer both of them away from second-hand smoke.“You have to be careful of people’s feelings” she indicates. Smokers, with or without a cigarette, carry the odor on their breath or clothing. The second- hand smoke can irritate lungs and trigger the need to use an inhaler. Preceding that would be a “coughing fit.”

Smokers may be used to strangers “commenting” on smoking by faking an intense cough. Mrs. Bender has chosen the middle path of dealing with this by avoiding the situation as much as possible. Family members may forget from time to time, or a new individual may be brought into their circle, requiring fancy footwork in being direct but kind. As her husband and caregiver, Michael Bender’s biggest adjustment was identifying what actions might be needed.“Michael had to learn not to panic when I went into a coughing attack.”

CAREGIVERS LEARN TO SAY “WHEN”

Loved ones with COPD may dig their heels in when it comes to adapting. Caregivers may feel obliged to push the situation. To eliminate stress on both parties, a middle ground is a better path.

When Valorie Bender’s “coughing fits” started, Michael learned to stay as calm as possible and just observe Valorie’s actions. If her handheld inhaler was needed, he could help by getting it for her, or help her to a chair to sit down until the coughing spasm passed. As they began to accept their roles in coping with COPD, caregiver and care receiver panic diminished. Michael learned the general “flow” of her coughing spasm, and that not all episodes are an emergency. Valorie, as the COPD patient, has adapted to letting herself get through the cough experience at her own rate, rather than push herself to “hurry up and get better so as not to panic Michael.”

The Benders have developed a lifestyle that may have limitations they didn’t have before Mrs. Bender’s diagnosis. Their changed lifestyle takes their mutual mental, emotional and physical well-being into the spotlight. Developing coping skills and creative management of activities has improved their relationship and mutual health.

 

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