Peer support gives Kilkenny COPD group a new lease of life

Kilkenny COPD group

Members of the Kilkenny COPD peer support group

The diagnosis of a chronic health condition can come as a blow to someone who fears it will limit their life. But in Kilkenny one group of people have come together to support each other with not just camaraderie, but with some of the tools to live a longer, healthier life.

COPD Support Ireland have a peer support group with exercises classes in Kilkenny, every Tuesday afternoon in Loughboy.

However, the meeting is much more than an ‘exercise class’ to those that get involved.

“Our group brings people together,” said Margaret Broderick, who is a regular attendee. “Some exercise is better than nothing, if you’re not able to do something, sit back and do what you can.”

Marian Bradley agrees: “It has a lot to do with support for one another. We enjoy it.”

COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) is a type of obstructive lung disease characterised by long-term breathing problems. It can result in shortness of breath or tiredness because you are working harder to breathe.

The Kilkenny support group came together just under a year ago, encouraged by their medical professionals at St Luke’s General Hospital.

The aim of the group is to ‘keep people right’ and to keep them out of hospital, especially during the winter months.

People with COPD do an eight week course after diagnosis to learn how to live with their condition. There are exercises they are told to do at home. But many of the people now in this support group said it would be great to have something like it.

So, with the help of their consultant, physiotherapist and the HSE, a few people did come together. Now up to 17 people meet each Tuesday afternoon, from 2pm at the Parish Centre in Loughboy.

“We keep an eye on each other, is their breathing ok?” Luke Cleere described the caring nature of the group.

Members range in age from mid 50s to the oldest lady who is 80. The weekly meeting is full of chat and craic.

To ensure the exercises are done correctly the group engaged a personal trainer from the Seil Bleu organisation. Seil Bleu is an organisation that specialises in life enhancing exercise for older adults and patient groups.

The group have received some funding through the HSE but must charge a small weekly fee to cover costs.

The exercise is gentle. Some of those taking part use walking aids or have oxygen tanks by their side. Participants exercise their upper body with some very light weights, there are some step exercises, ‘genuflecting’ and boxing - about 30 seconds of each. The exercise is designed to keep all the muscles active.

It’s an inclusive group where those taking part are not only forming friendships but are enjoy the social side of the group. Before Christmas they held a number of tea parties and looking forward to spring and summer they are looking into days out for the group.

This friendship is as important as the exercise element of the support group. People are invited to bring their partners along to take part too.

“Don’t be shy,” said another group member Kay Gaffney, “we will make you feel welcome.”

Having the support of your peers helps to restore people’s confidence after the diagnosis of a chronic illness. Luke Cleere said: “The worst thing about COPD is your confidence goes because you can’t do what you did 12 months before.”

This group gives people the incentive to get out and about and many have grown in confidence. “There is a life after being diagnosed with COPD,” Luke said.

It’s not just for people with COPD, the group is suitable for anyone who has a condition that causes breathlessness. Everyone is welcome but they are asked to talk to their GP before taking part in the exercises.

The Kilkenny group is affiliated to COPD Ireland and are grateful to Michael Drohan, the COPD rep for the South East, for his support.

If you are interested in joining contact Luke on 087-6132778 or call to St Patrick’s Parish Centre in Loughboy on Tuesday afternoons.

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