(Family Features) Chances are you know someone who takes care of a sick parent or spouse. You may even know someone who cares for a person with COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. COPD is a lung disease that makes it hard to breathe and gets worse over time. Like other diseases, it often affects more than the person living with it. COPD can affect the whole family.
Joel Africk found this out firsthand.
“I watched my mother serve as the main caregiver for my father with COPD,” said Africk, president of Respiratory Health Association (RHA). “The follow-up appointments, the coordination of his care with his care team, the supervised exercise – my mother juggled it all. She was the driving force in my dad’s care.”
Luckily, because of the work he does, Africk said, “I was able to put our kitchen table conversations in front of a dedicated team of patients, caregivers and providers, and ‘The COPD Caregiver’s Toolkit’ was created. We worked to simplify some of the most complicated parts of being a COPD caregiver and provide resources to help.”
Caregivers who feel confident about what to do often provide better care for their loved ones. “The COPD Caregiver’s Toolkit” offers advice on a variety of topics for patients and caregivers, including how to prepare for doctors’ appointments, navigate changes in home life, provide help after a COPD flare-up or hospital stay and stay mentally and physically healthy through it all.
The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute’s (NHLBI) Learn More Breathe Better®program recently partnered with RHA to update and make the toolkit more broadly available online. Learn More Breathe Better works to improve the lives of the millions of people living with COPD and other lung conditions. Through its educational efforts, NHLBI reaches patients, providers, researchers and now, caregivers.
According to Jim Kiley, M.D., director of NHLBI’s Division of Lung Diseases, “COPD is a complex disease that over time can become debilitating. That’s why early diagnosis, treatment and disease management are so important. It can be overwhelming for many patients and their families.”
To help with disease management challenges, “The COPD Caregiver’s Toolkit” comes with medication and vaccination tracking sheets and a list of questions to ask doctors. It also features information caregivers can use to support their own health and well-being, such as how to find support groups and backup care.
The right tools can make all the difference.
“‘The COPD Caregiver’s Toolkit’ is a valuable resource that will help clarify what caregivers need to know to help themselves and their loved ones,” Kiley said.
Find and share this free resource at nhlbi.nih.gov/COPD-caregivers.Photo courtesy of Getty Images