COPD at Home - The Role of Family and Friends in COPD Management

Life with COPD has many aspects, some of which cannot be foreseen until one starts experiencing it.
Surely, you, as someone who is going through it, or as someone who is taking care of someone that goes through it, must have an idea by now about the physiological and psychological burden COPD creates, and it may feel like a spiral hard to get out of, but with the right pharmaceutical and physiotherapy treatment, there are proven ways to overcome these.
However, there is another issue that caught researchers’ and our attention, namely the co-dependent relationship a COPD patient has with their informal caregiver, such as a family member, and as a result, the burden on the caregiver. Although this is a new area to explore and does require more research and implementation in treatment of COPD patients, it is worth diving in and having a better understanding of how informal caregivers help with and ease COPD symptoms.
Now, who are these “informal caregivers”, how can they, or do they even, play an efficient role in COPD treatment, and how are they affected by COPD? To give you an insight, let’s start with the definition. Informal caregivers, often family members or close friends, play a crucial role in supporting patients with COPD. They help with daily activities, accompany patients to healthcare appointments, provide emotional support, and manage medication and healthcare appointments.
Data suggests that patients with formal caregivers tend to have better outcomes in terms of health: These patients tend to have lower smoking rates, improved exercise capacity and less emergency department visits than COPD patients that live alone. Having someone around who cares about the patient motivates the patient to “get better” and, for instance, perform their exercises on a more regular basis.
The benefits of having a caregiver are not limited to that. Informal caregivers can reduce healthcare costs and lessen the economic burden of COPD by improving patient adherence and providing care at home. Additionally, from the caregiver’s point of view, it has been found that caring for a COPD patient could be seen as an opportunity for personal growth for them. Some studies also suggest that caregivers may find it rewarding to be able to care for a loved one and help them stay at home, where they are comfortable.
On the other hand, just like every matter in life, even having a caring person to help you with coping with COPD has its downsides, mostly for the caregiver. For instance, assuming that the caregiver is someone who has developed positive emotions for the patient (especially when that is a family member), the caregiver may act overprotective, resulting in a decreased self-care behavior in the patient, causing the patient to be more dependent on that person.
Due to the same reason mentioned above, the caregiver’s perception of the COPD patient’s symptoms and health may differ from reality, which may cause distress for both parties. Even when assuming that both parties are on the same page, caregivers may still experience distress, depression, and changes in their social lives and relationships with the patient. And since we are talking of a codependent relationship, quality of life for caregivers can affect the patient's well-being as well. Ironically, lessening the economic burden on the healthcare system, the caregivers themselves may face costs for sick leave, leading to more healthcare resource utilization.
In conclusion, informal caregivers play an essential role in COPD management, but their needs and well-being are often overlooked. Addressing the needs of both patients and their caregivers is crucial for better COPD care and integrating caregivers into the care system and providing them with education and support is key.
In these times where not only the optimal drug therapy, but also the importance of home management of COPD is being recognized and understood based on studies, Breathment aims to help you with all these concerns, in one App. Request a demo to find out more.