Imagine yourself walking across the bedroom, you decide to inhale a full breath of air to fill up every available space in your lungs. But then, you are only able to exhale half of the air. You immediately take in another full breath. Only half comes out.
Now stop imagining and try it. First, you’ll notice how your chest inflates but fails to deflate completely. Then, you feel your heart start to race. Finally, an overwhelming breathlessness takes over. You’ll quickly want to normalize your breath, but what if you can’t?
For someone with COPD, every breath is a struggle. The physical battle may also take a toll on their emotional and mental health by isolating them from their family and friends. According to COPD Life is Calling, 40% of COPD sufferers experience depression caused by the lack of mobility, the possible agitation caused by expressing feelings or the inability to put feelings into words. Bottling emotions can push anyone to the verge of social and emotional isolation.
COPD, like any other chronic illness, affects everyone in a different way including friends and family. Understanding how your loved one feels and the challenges they are facing can help you be a better support system.
We’ve put together ways that you can help your loved one overcome possible social or emotional isolation.
It is important for everyone involved to know they are not alone. Facilitate a safe space for your loved one to express their feelings! Bottling up emotions is never the answer. Both of you should know that you are not going through this alone. Rely on each other for support and love.
Talking about feelings can sometimes be uncomfortable. Encourage your loved one to write down their thoughts and feelings. Once those concerns are expressed on paper, it might be easier to share them.
Plan short walks to encourage social connection and mobility. Exercise, if possible, is very helpful for anyone suffering from a chronic illness like COPD. Exercise helps battle depression, improve energy levels, strengthen the cardiovascular system and increase endurance. If going for a walk or having social gatherings are not practical options, consider using technology. FaceTime, Skype, and other social networks can help those with COPD connect with friends, family and online communities.
If your loved one was diagnosed with COPD consider a research study as an option. Those who qualify receive study-related care and medication from a caring medical staff team at no cost to you.