Dear COPD Coach,
My husband has COPD, is on oxygen and was diagnosed about two years ago. Since he started using oxygen he sits all day in his chair and expects me to wait on him “hand and foot.” We are both in our early 70’s. He calls for me to bring him something to drink or eat and even to bring him his paper or reading glasses. Just the other day he wanted me to swat a fly that was bothering him. I understand that he is not able to do all the things that he used to, but he is just exhausting me!
I know he can do more than he is letting on, because every afternoon he grabs his oxygen tank and takes off in his car to hang around with his friends for several hours. After he gets home, it is back to the chair and me having to constantly wait on him. I want to be a good caregiver, but sometimes I really just want to smack him in the head. What should I do??
Ok, this question kind of makes me feel like Dear Abby, but in any case, here are my thoughts.
Individuals who are diagnosed with COPD often become somewhat depressed, and instead of doing the things they are still able to do, they choose to do nothing. The worst thing that a person with COPD can do is become inactive. In fact, many COPD patients strive for some degree of independence adjusting how they go about tasks while learning to ask for help with those tasks they are no longer able to do.
Taking off every afternoon to visit with friends tells me you husband is not quite as sick as he leads you to believe. To continue to wait on him “hand and foot” will do nothing but encourage him to continue to expect the same level of care from you. The best thing you can do you him, and yourself, is to encourage him to do tasks he is able to do. First, speak with his doctor to find out exactly what limitations he may have, and then use that information to “draw a line” as to what you can and should do for him. If he is able to walk to the car dragging an oxygen tank, he can certainly get himself a drink or swat a fly.
The work of a caregiver can be quite taxing and even exhausting. It is very important that you have time to yourself to rest and relax. It’s important for physical health, as well as the health of your relationship, that youtalk with your husband and explain that you cannot accommodate his every need. Express to him that you must still take care of yourself. Tell him that while you realize he can’t still do all of the things he used to do, you still need him to do the things he is able to do. If he asks you to do something you know that he is able to do, ask him to do it himself. If a fly is bothering him, by all means bring him a fly swatter, but leave the swatting to him!
Try to encourage him to take short walks with you, or go shopping even if he just sits in the front of the store or in the car. If something needs fixing that might be difficult for him to do, at least ask him to help or if nothing else, help by directing you.
People with a chronic disease like COPD need to feel that they are still vital, as well as remaining a part of the family dynamics. Sometimes it may seem like you are walking a tightrope, but as a caregiver you need to do everything you can to make sure your husband remains as active as possible, and most importantly that you take care of the caregiver. In the end, you both will be healthier for it!
The COPD Coach
Ask the Expert is aimed at providing information for individuals with COPD to take to your doctor, and is not in any way intended to be medical advice.
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