There are a number of opportunities for overcoming social isolation

Meeting others with COPD is one way to tend to our emotional health

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by Caroline Gainer |

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Many people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) live alone, and because we must exercise care not to get whatever bug might be going around, we often must limit our excursions away from home. Both factors can make the disease a very isolating one.

People with COPD may not look sick unless we’re on oxygen, like I am, so it might be difficult to understand why we have to stay at home or cancel plans. I have not lost friendships because of COPD and its symptoms, but many people say they have.

Some patients may not want to stand out in a crowd, according to Michael Hess, a registered respiratory therapist and the senior director of public outreach and education at the COPD Foundation. The situation only got worse as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Donald A. Mahler, MD, who participated alongside Hess in a February 2021 AJMC Stakeholder Summit titled “Social Isolation and COPD.”

I began using my portable oxygen device shortly before I was set to attend a concert, which might have spared me much of the initial stress about going out in public. I did not have time to worry about how people would react.

As a patient advocate, isolation is one of the problems that haunts me the most. Many people who reach out to me tell me they feel separated from their family and friends. I thought it might be helpful to introduce some resources people with COPD who are feeling isolated might explore.

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Getting together

The American Lung Association (ALA) suggests that people with COPD find organizations that are dedicated to helping them overcome feelings of sadness and isolation. The ALA sponsors the Living with COPD group on Inspire, a virtual patient and caregiver community.

The ALS’s Better Breathers Club hosts meetings both in person and virtually. I belong to a virtual group and they offer some first-rate information.

Also, the nonprofit Right2Breathe sponsors its Pulmonary Chat Online Patient Support program where a person can hear from experts, enjoy karaoke night, and chat with other people who have a lung disease.

The COPD Foundation also sponsors several virtual get-togethers. Its OxyTalk is a Zoom meeting especially for people on oxygen. People who are not on oxygen will also find this resource helpful, I think.

In addition, the foundation sponsors a social hour, which includes a harmonica play-along at the end of the session. You don’t need to play the harmonica, but the opportunity is there and it is fun to learn with friends.

COPD largely affects older adults, and many regions have centers where seniors can take part in enjoyable activities and opportunities to meet and interact with others.

The resources I mention here are ones I have personally participated in and can vouch for. We should all work to take care of our emotional health and reach out to other people with COPD. Many of them might become our new best friends.


Note: COPD News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of COPD News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.