I am caring for someone with COPD. Where can I find support?

Caring for someone with COPD can be a rewarding experience, but it can also be tiring and stressful. It's important to find support so you don't become overwhelmed by your responsibilities. Some caregivers find online support groups helpful; others prefer small in-person groups. Many others find support in less formal ways by relying on friends, neighbors or paid help.

In-person support groups

In traditional support groups, caregivers get together on a weekly or monthly basis to share feelings, information and ideas for coping with the stresses of being a caregiver. These meetings are sometimes led by a trained professional or volunteer who guides the discussion. Some groups also teach new caregiving skills, such as how to help someone with bathing.

Support groups are helpful because they connect you with people who are coping with many of the same issues. It can be a relief to share your feelings, experiences and information with people who are going through the same things as you are. If you don't find a particular support group helpful, try another one. It might take a few tries to find a group that meets your needs.

Here are some tips you can follow to find a support group in your area:

  • Call your doctor or local hospital and ask about caregiver support groups in your area.
  • Ask around within your community of faith.
  • The Canadian Caregiver Coalition lists some regional services and supports.

Online Support

Some people prefer online support groups or “chat rooms.” Online groups can be private and convenient. Some are led by a moderator or trained guide. Some websites host “message boards” rather than live chats. A message board allows caregivers to post and read messages and questions about their issues and feelings. Two examples include:

  • The Canadian Virtual Hospice - a free interactive network for caregivers and people dealing with life-threatening illness and loss which includes message boards and chat groups. To access free online support services you will need to register (create a profile).
  • COPD International Caregivers Community - this community offers a chat room, message board, feature articles, coping tips and newsletter for COPD caregivers and patients

Tips for caregivers of COPD Patients

  • Learn as much as possible about COPD - signs and symptoms, what to expect, medications, and warning signs. Go to doctor's appointments with your patient and ask questions if you don't understand something. Visit Canadian Lung Association for more information on COPD.
  • Have an action plan. Your doctor can work with you and the person you're caring for to create a personal COPD action plan. The plan can outline what medications to use and when, the warning signs of a COPD flare-up and when to call the doctor or visit the emergency room. Knowing what to do in an emergency can help to ease worry and stress.
  • If the person you are caring for attends a respiratory rehabilitation program, consider going with him so you can learn practical tips to help reduce shortness of breath and make day-to-day living easier. For example, you might learn ways to reorganize the kitchen to make it easier for the person you're caring for to continue doing some daily tasks.
  • Know the signs that will tell you if you're becoming overwhelmed or that things are getting out of control. If you're becoming very tired or depressed, angry, sleepless, etc, you need to find help. You can try your doctor or you can call a local hospital, your community of faith. You can also call the helpline of The Lung Association's Breathworks program at 1-866-717-COPD, which is a program for people with COPD.
  • Stay in touch with friends. Being a caregiving can be lonely. It's okay to laugh and enjoy friendships. In fact, the better you feel, the better you'll be able to care for your COPD patient.
  • Continue doing activities you enjoy. Don't feel guilty about taking regular breaks to enjoy outside hobbies. Ask friends or other family members to help you, or, if possible, hire an aide to provide care when you are out.
  • Recognize that some people who have advanced COPD may need an assisted living facility or hospice care. You can ask your patient's health-care practitioner for advice in choosing a facility.

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