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8 Caregiver Coping Tips

Caregiver Coping Tips to Help Make You a Better Caregiver


Updated November 05, 2012

Caregiver Coping Tips

Caregiver Kiss

Photo © Flickr.com user jimmah_v
The role of caregiver is one of the most important that you will ever play. But it can also be the most challenging, especially when someone you love has been diagnosed with COPD. While dynamics differ from family to family, one thing is certain when someone develops a chronic illness -- things are going to change. The life you once knew has now been interrupted as you are faced with managing doctor's appointments, pulmonary rehabilitation classes, exercise sessions and much more. If you are already asking yourself how you are going to do it, you are not alone. Millions of people just like you have asked themselves this same question. In order to triumph over the role that you have chosen, however, you must always remember one thing -- self-care must come first.

The following caregiver coping tips will help you develop positive coping skills when caring for a loved one with COPD, so that your experience is rewarding for both you and your patient:

  • Educate yourself - Find out all you can about the disease itself and the nature of its course. Learn about various COPD treatment strategies, medications and the long-term effects COPD will have on your loved one. Before you take on the role of a lifetime, you need to know what you are getting yourself into and one way to do that is through education.
  • Ask for help - One of the biggest mistakes a caregiver can make is to think that they can do it all by themselves. This do-it-yourself attitude will quickly lead to burnout. Whether it be making a casserole or playing a game of cards with your patient, most people would be glad to help, if only you would ask.
  • Take a time out - Feeling increasingly irritable, angry, sad or resentful? Then you need a time out. Similar to asking for help, learning how to take a time out when you feel the need is essential to your health and well-being. Engage a friend or family member to sit with your patient while you get your hair done, get a massage or just spend time with a friend. A little change of pace will go a long way.
  • Exercise - If exercise sits low on your priority list, you may want to move it back up to where it belongs -- at the top. Scheduling regular exercise for yourself is just as important as for your patient. Exercise can help reduce tension, increase your energy level and improve your mood. Exercise can be your salvation and lack of it, your destruction. The good news is that exercise does not have to be strenuous to benefit you. A brisk walk requires nothing but a sturdy pair of tennis shoes and a few minutes of your time, yet the rewards are abundant.
  • Get enough rest - As a caregiver, you will undoubtedly begin to understand the term "sleep deprivation." Lack of sleep can cause you to feel exhausted, and to have a short fuse. Lack of sleep may also leave you susceptible to all sorts of physical and emotional ailments, such as migraine headaches, depression and a weakened immune system. If your immune system is weakened, you are at risk for developing an infection, which can jeopardize your health and the health of your patient. If you are having trouble sleeping because you are disturbed by your patient's coughing or noisy breathing, wear ear plugs or sleep in a different room, if possible. If you find you just can't relax at night due to the strain of the day, try drinking a cup of warm milk before bedtime or some hot, herbal tea. Take a warm bath. Read your favorite book. Getting a full night's rest will help you sustain your energy so that you can be a better caregiver to your patient. Be careful not to use alcohol or sleeping pills to help you sleep. These substances are habit forming and will make you feel worse in the long run.
  • Eat properly - A balanced diet is a fundamental part of any healthy lifestyle. Eating nutritious foods not only provides you with the energy you will need to take care of yourself, but to care for someone else, as well. Remember, too, not to skip meals. If you don't have time to cook or prepare food, try signing up for Meals on Wheels, a volunteer organization that delivers food to people in need. Get back to basics with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables. Watch your salt and sugar intake. Drink plenty of water. Eat less red meat and more chicken or fish. Finally, avoid alcohol and caffeine.
  • Join a support group - Because others have already walked the road that you are starting on, a good support group can help to guide the way for you. Support groups provide social interaction which you may be lacking due to your role as caregiver. Support groups can give you a much needed outlet to share your feelings in a safe, nonjudgmental environment. Finally, support groups can offer encouragement and offer suggestions and advice. For online support, visit the COPD Forum.

  • Hold a family meeting - Taking on all the responsibility when it comes to caring for a loved one can lead to anger and frustration, for yourself and for your patient. Hold a family meeting and ask the rest of the family to help by preparing meals, providing respite care, helping with bathing, or just spending time with the patient. If you don't ask for help, unspoken messages may be interpreted to mean that you don't need it. Involving the entire family will allow you to distribute the responsibilities of caretaking evenly so that the weight of the world does not fall entirely upon your shoulders. It will also provide an avenue of social interaction for your loved that he may not get otherwise.

Because being a caregiver can be a difficult job, not everyone can do it. Know your limitations and if you find that you are not cut out for it, don't beat yourself up. Good intentions aside, doing what is best for yourself and your loved one is most important, even if it means finding a more suitable caregiver to fill your shoes.

For more information about caregiving resources, visit the Eldercare Locator, a nationwide, information assistance directory supported by the Agency on Aging. You can contact them toll-free at 1-800-677-1116 Monday through Friday between the hours of 9 a.m and 11 p.m. eastern time.


Shimberg, Elaine F. Coping with COPD. St. Martin's Press. New York, N.Y. 2003.

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