Helping or caring for a loved one with a long-term (chronic) condition, such as COPD or heart failure, can feel like a lot to take on.
Sometimes it can be hard for people to accept help. Or they may choose not to accept help. So you may have to adjust the way you think, ask, listen, and respond. These tips might help.
For example, ask "Would you like me to do your breathing exercises with you?" instead of "You need to do your breathing exercises."
Ask questions like:
You can gently encourage someone who uses tobacco to quit. Think of your comments as only one event that may move that person toward quitting.
Cooking dinner, putting away laundry, or even just walking across the living room can be exhausting for a person who has COPD, heart failure, or another long-term (chronic) condition.
When helping your loved one, be patient. And let your loved one do as much on his or her own as possible.
To help your loved one get tasks done more easily and with as little effort as possible, encourage your loved one to:
Group the tasks by location. This way your loved one does all the chores in one part of the house at around the same time.
Encourage your loved one to sit down when bathing, getting dressed, brushing his or her teeth, shaving, or putting on makeup.
COPD, heart failure, and other long-term (chronic) conditions can make it hard to eat enough and stay at a healthy weight. Losing weight means losing muscle mass. This includes the muscles that help with breathing. It can make it harder for your loved one to breathe.
Here are some ways to help your loved one stay at a healthy weight.
Your loved one may have a low appetite or need some encouragement to eat regularly. To help encourage your loved one to eat:
You can help your loved one add calories and protein to meals or snacks. Try these tips.
If your loved one has other diet limitations, talk with your loved one's doctor or a registered dietitian before you make any changes to what they eat.
Your loved one may have a hard time breathing while eating. But there are things they can do to make it easier. Encourage your loved one to:
Taking care of yourself is your most important step as a caregiver. Caregiving can be stressful, even in the best of situations. Here are some important things you need to find time to do—just for yourself.
You will meet other caregivers and learn new ways to deal with challenging situations. To find classes in your area, contact the Family Caregiver Alliance (www.caregiver.org).
You may feel better and sleep better if you exercise. Experts say to aim for at least 2½ hours of moderate activity a week.footnote 1
When you are busy giving care, it may seem easier to eat fast food than to prepare healthy meals. But healthy meals are easy to prepare, and healthy eating will give you more energy to carry you through each day.
If you aren't getting enough sleep at night, take a nap during the day. Plan to get at least one full night's rest each week.
For example, make time to read, listen to music, paint, do crafts, or play an instrument—even if you can only do it for a few minutes a day. If you like to go to church activities or take classes, ask a friend or family member to stay with your loved one for an hour or two once or twice a week so you can do those things.
This includes dental checkups. Even if you have always been healthy, you need to stay healthy. Know about the signs of depression, and watch for them not only in the person you are caring for but also in yourself. If you have feelings of lingering sadness or hopelessness, talk with your doctor.
Helping a loved one with health problems can be emotionally difficult. If you are having trouble coping with your feelings, seek advice and counseling from family members, trained mental health professionals, or spiritual advisors.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2018). Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd ed. https://health.gov/paguidelines/second-edition. Accessed July 9, 2018.
Current as of:
March 9, 2022
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: Kathleen Romito MD - Family MedicineAdam Husney MD - Family MedicineE. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine
Current as of: March 9, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine
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