“This is the third blog post in the Caregiver Series that discusses the acceptance of oxygen.”
After the breathing test last December, my husband’s numbers dropped some and it was becoming more difficult to work, so the doctor prescribed supplemental oxygen. It had been a short 2 months since the diagnosis.
The Durable Medical Company brought a concentrator, compressor, two tanks, and multiple tubing. The serviceman hooked up the system and explained how to use and fill the tanks. There was a large unit for the house with 25 ft tubing for ease in walking around the house and a compressor to fill the individual tanks. As my husband looked at the oxygen system, it was the start of the acceptance of wearing oxygen.
It would be a long and drawn out acceptance…
The viewpoint of wearing oxygen is very different depending on whether you are the patient or the caregiver. At the pulmonologist’s office, the doctor explained that due to his breathing capacity levels decreasing, it was time for supplemental oxygen. As a caregiver, my viewpoint was that it was going to make my husband’s breathing easier. As I watch him struggle to breathe, this was going to help. Wasn’t that really the point?
From my husband’s point of view that I have come to learn, this was a foreign object that I now needed to use to help my breathing that I used to do on my own. At first, it was used in the house only and the tanks weren’t used. Eventually the tanks were used in the house since they had a shorter tube. Going outside was a totally different story.
If he was going to the store, he would take the tank with him. He would leave it in the car and would say that he is just running in the store and back out. The tank didn’t get used. Then came to carrying the tank into the store but again it wasn’t used. So finally, he informed me that it was a stigma and it made him feel weak having to use it. Finally, we were at the point that we could address the problem.
Why is it a stigma? Some patients think that having to use oxygen is a sign that they are sick or in a weaker state. Possibly that when using oxygen in public that people are staring at you. I think that most people are not staring unless they are young children who are merely curious. Most adults are wrapped up in the own lives and are not really staring at all.
I think a better way to look at it is by thinking about prescription or reading glasses. If we see someone wearing glasses, do we immediately think of them sick or weak? No, they have glasses to help them see. There are so many people that wear glasses that most people do not even notice. As a result of COVID, there has been an increase in the use of supplemental oxygen in addition to the non-COVID respiratory patients that require oxygen. There are more people wearing oxygen than before.
It is a large pill to swallow having to use oxygen and it takes awhile to accept. Be patient caregivers! They will come around to changing their viewpoint on needing to use oxygen and using it in public.
JUST LEARNED-Be proactive not reactive about using your oxygen. Being reactive can damage your heart as your heart has to work harder when it doesn’t have enough oxygen.