It's February and Valentine's Day will soon be here. You know, the day for hearts, flowers, candy. But, if you have COPD you might not be feeling too loveable right now - or even all that loved. Maybe your close relationships and love life are just wonderful! But if they're not, let's take a few minutes to look at what you, a person with COPD or the loved one of somebody with COPD, can do to make life better.
The relationships we have and the interactions with the people closest to us are tied closely to our emotional health. Sometimes relationships can be of help when we have a chronic disease - and sometimes they can make things a lot worse than they already are. Here's some insight about relationships from those who have COPD and those who love and care about them.
First of all, let's clarify two terms. A "well spouse" is the spouse of the person with the illness. A "caregiver" is any person who provides care to another person. He or she may be spouse, a family member, or a friend.
A caregiver or well spouse might say:
- Where do I draw the line? What should I do for my spouse and what should I let her do on her own?
- Really, how bad is the shortness of breath? Sometimes I wonder if it is just an excuse for getting out of work. He just sits there!
- I get so tired. I'm not so young myself anymore. Sometimes I feel like I'm doing everything.
- I told him to quit smoking, but he didn't. And look at him. He ruined his lungs and now I've got to do everything for him.
A person with COPD might say:
- Unless a person is in this situation they have no idea what it's like to be so short of breath.
- Sure, I feel sorry for my spouse having to do so much to take care of me, but she's got to understand that if I only could, I would love to do more.
- I know the smoking did it. Don't people understand that I feel bad enough?
- I'm still a person. Sometimes people just treat me like an invalid.
You can just hear the frustration in the voices of those with COPD as well as their loved ones. No wonder relationships can be strained! So, what to do? Communication is key. Here the voices of people with COPD.
"Allow us the freedom and the independence to make choices regarding our own health. Having a diagnosis of COPD may be black and white to anyone who doesn't have it, but it can cause us to feel better or worse day to day, or even minute to minute."
"Understand that if we need a nap, don't make us feel bad about it. We might not be able to get up in the morning and be out the door in an hour. We move slowly, especially in the first part of our day."
"I've slowly tried to educate my family about my disease and how it has it has affected me physically. No speeches, just a few words here and there to guide them to the realization that my physical capabilities have changed, and that I sometimes need help. There are many things, which I now do in a different way, and some things I cannot do any more. I have done this not just with words, but with my actions. Walking slower, avoiding the things that make breathing difficult, napping when I feel tired. They see the changes in me. I tell them when I am tired or when I am having trouble breathing, I don't try to hide it as I once did."