It began with your inner circle, those closest to you, and has gradually been spreading outward to friends and acquaintances. Sharing your COPD diagnosis and knowing how to answer the various questions that arise about it could be uncomfortable – for you, and also for those you’re speaking with as well.
Surprisingly, you might find that the largest challenges are in communicating about your COPD with your primary caregiving partner – the individual who is closest to you personally. The caregiver/care receiver relationship can raise a number of emotions. The individual on the receiving end of care may feel self-conscious and insecure as a result of needing assistance, which can result in feelings of anger, sadness, and frustration, just to name a few. The care provider may feel incapable of meeting all of the required needs, regretful for mistakes made, and downright exhausted from attempting to handle someone else’s care needs along with their own.
There are a number of key strategies to improve communication with your care partner:
- Make sure you are both fully knowledgeable about COPD, the associated symptoms and treatment plans, together with its typical progression. The physician can offer information for both of you to better understand what you are facing.
- Don’t beat around the bush. Honestly and clearly express your emotions and needs.
- Listen to the other person – and let them know they are being heard. Maintain eye contact, nod or use other nonverbal indicators to demonstrate you’re paying attention.
- Be assertive without being controlling. Your feelings are valid and deserve to be shared in a constructive way without lashing out at the other individual.
- Avoid argumentative words and phrases, for example, “You never…” or “You always…”. The person will probably become defensive, intensifying hurt feelings.
- Remember that no one is a mind-reader. If you are assuming your caregiving partner knows what you are thinking or how you are feeling simply by your actions, it opens the door to misinterpretation.
- Maintain respect and empathy for each other. The two of you are facing uncharted territory and evolving challenges, and will both make mistakes. A little grace will go a long way.
It is also a good idea to call a time-out if emotions start to escalate. Take a break from one another and concentrate on calming activities, such as listening to music, reading, exercising, or writing in a journal. When you both feel calmer, try the conversation again.
At Harmony Home Health & Hospice, a trusted provider of elder care services in Salt Lake City and surrounding communities, we understand the frustrations that may arise when dealing with a chronic health condition like COPD, and we are available to help. Our friendly caregivers can help older adults and families find the right services and levels of care needed to improve quality of life, comfort, and health. Call us any time to learn how to get started.