If you recently learned you have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), many things in your day-to-day life have likely been turned around. One thing that won’t change, however, is the power of friendship. Now more than ever you’ll want strong relationships to help you follow your treatment plan so you can live a full and active life.
“Caregivers are a crucial part of the medical team,” notes MeiLan K. Han, M.D., a University of Michigan Health System pulmonologist, COPD specialist and spokesperson for the American Lung Association. They play many roles—cheerleader, chauffeur and everything in between. Here’s why a good support system is so important.
Dealing with the emotional toll. “Everyone needs to know that someone is in their corner,” says Dr. Han. Having COPD puts you at a higher risk of stress and anxiety, which can worsen your COPD symptoms. But spending time with people you enjoy can help you feel better. Consider arranging weekly visits or outings with others.
Having your back. COPD is a complicated condition that requires taking medication, tracking symptoms and sticking to a treatment plan outlined by your doctor. Dr. Han suggests enlisting someone to help you keep an eye on your plan and even take on the role of executive assistant, perhaps reaching out to insurance companies on your behalf, helping you set up an easy-to-follow system for taking medicines or joining you at doctor’s appointments to take notes and make sure your questions have been addressed.
Being part of the process. Your doctor likely gave you some breathing exercises and broader exercise goals. Ask someone you trust to help hold you accountable for hitting those targets. Even better, invite them to join you. After all, regular exercise is important for everyone.
INVITING THE RIGHT PEOPLE
Let’s be real: Not every friend in your social circle should be invited into your support network. You’re going to want to include people who lift you up emotionally and who can give you the kind of help you need right now—be it a ride to the doctor’s office or accompanying you to the movies. Most important, you need someone with whom you’re comfortable letting your guard down.