When a loved one is living with COPD

If someone you know has COPD it is important to remember that the person hasn’t changed. Although COPD is now part of and will change your lives, it doesn’t have to define it.

These are some suggestions on how to support someone living with COPD.


  • Know what to do when the person with COPD is unwell.
  • Reassure the person with COPD that you are there for them.
  • Offer to exercise with the person with COPD
  • Give the person with COPD time to seek help and be clear about when help is needed. It can be useful to agree on a code word that can be used when help is needed; for example, “red” might mean that things are really bad.
  • Remember that some tasks may take the person with COPD longer to do but it’s important to let the person do as much as they can.
  • When offering help, ask the person what they would like from you.
  • If help is initially declined, offer to help again at a later stage.
  • Ensure that the person with COPD has easy access to the toilet.
  • Offer to exercise with the person with COPD.
  • Engage in conversation about being involved in the person’s care, needs and wishes.


  • Don’t offer uninvited advice or actions, for example repeatedly offering to make cups of tea.
  • Don’t take over decision-making unless you are being asked to.
  • If a person is coughing, don’t slap them on the back.

If you are caring for a family member or friend with COPD, it is important that you understand as much as possible about COPD and how it affects the person. Listening to the person and finding out what matters to them is a good way of starting a conversation about how you can best support them. However, as a carer you will
have many roles in the management of the person’s COPD. It is a good idea to get information and support specifically for you as a carer, for example from Family Carers Ireland or the COPD Support Ireland support group network.

Most importantly, remember to look after your own physical and mental health. Try to live as normally as possible. Consider taking up exercise or engaging in activities that are enjoyable for you. Be aware of any anxiety you may be feeling and reach out to seek support from others. Caring for a person living with a chronic disease such as COPD can be physically and mentally exhausting at times so ensuring that you take care of yourself as well as the loved one living with a chronic disease is paramount to weathering those times.

As they say on the aeroplanes, “In case of a loss of cabin pressure, oxygen
masks above your seat will deploy, place this mask over your nose and mouth and only after doing so, should you assist your child or other passengers with their mask”

The reasoning is simple, if you become incapacitated, you can’t help others. In taking care of yourself first, others will then benefit from your unimpeded care and attention.

(Adapted from COPD Support Ireland and The Irish Hospice Foundation. Planning for the future with COPD.)