Community Corner – Meet Jessica
COPD is a growing epidemic in the United States and many people are unaware that they have it. Although, COPD can be life changing for the person who is diagnosed it can also be life changing to the people who love them. With that being said we really wanted to not only hear the perspectives of individuals who have COPD, but the surrounding people it effects as well. Fortunately for us, we had a chance to gain some insight from a Respiratory Therapist whose mother suffers from COPD, here is her story:
In 2015, my mother was diagnosed with COPD, I have assumed she had COPD for many years prior, as I work in the Respiratory field and she has a long smoking history, which I believe caused her COPD. Of course comforting a loved one in general can be difficult, but especially knowing daily struggles I see as a Respiratory Therapist with COPD patients makes it worse. Knowing what the future probably will have in store for her can be taxing. While comforting her, it was important for me to also encourage her to quit smoking, take her medications as directed and remaining vigilant to care for herself is paramount.
Although, it is the choice of the individual to make a change for a healthier life I do often share what I have learned that has help COPD patients. I aim to teach her breathing techniques, orders to take her nebs in and inhalers, to stay away from triggers in the environment or certain weather, also I continue to encourage her to quit smoking.
Caring for an individual, doing your own research and seeing your loved one in pain can take a toll, so advice I have for anyone taking care for someone with COPD is to take care of yourself as well. You only have one life to live and although you love your family member, you can not "fix" them or make them change or undo a lot of damage that has already been done to their health. The most effective things to do is love them, encourage them, and help to guide them and assist them as best you can.
There are many factors that would be improved in the field and for those caring for others with COPD and those who have COPD, Education, Education, Education is imperative!!! Increasing the home health care availability with Respiratory Therapist bedside and doing home visits is something that can really make a difference. Education in hospitals, clinics, pulmonary offices and PCP officers. The cost of medication needs to be more affordable, available and outreach to those in lower income areas. A lot of issues stem back to social issues as well, but when those issues are not addressed, they become larger issues involving hospital stays and rehab stays that are long and not cost effective to the patient or the facility. The key, I believe is education. From the moment a patient is diagnosed with COPD, they should be assigned (either from their PCP or pulmonologist) a education coordinator or coach. Someone to follow up monthly and then to 6 months etc.
In regards to having an app, I believe as we move towards a more electronic world apps would be a great place to start with monitoring and being available to answer questions and troubleshoot. Especially with limited respiratory involvement in home health care at this time.
Thank you so much Jessica for your story. We know that your words will encourage many as they face the challenges of COPD and know they are not alone.