Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Moody, Linda E.


elderly, lung disease, symptom management, dyspnea management, caregiver


An estimated 14 million people in the United States currently have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). This nonreversible illness causes progressively decreasing airflow and is manifested by frequent episodes of acute and chronic dyspnea. The purposes of this study were: 1) to examine the relationships between mastery (MS), negative affectivity trait (NA), perceptions of patient dyspnea severity (DSI), and perceptions of which dyspnea interventions are effective (DE) among family caregiver-COPD patient dyads and 2) to examine the degree of agreement between the dyad members regarding dyspnea assessment and management. The study subjects were elderly (patients = 71.6 years, caregivers = 63.4 years), mostly women (patients = 60%, caregivers = 63.3%), Caucasian (96.7%), and patients had severe/very severe COPD (80%). No significant differences were found between family caregivers' and patients' ratings of MS, NA, DSI, or DE.

The most effective dyspnea management strategies identified by both dyad members included changing activity, relaxation, inhaled medication use, and altering breathing pattern. The study conceptual model was tested to identify the interrelationships between the study variables. Significant effects in the patient model were between DSI and NA (p = 0.04), DE and gender (p = 0.04), DE and education (p = 0.015), and between DE and disease severity (p = -0.026). The caregiver model demonstrated no significant effects between the study variables. Significant effects in the dyad model were between DSI and the length of time caregiving had been provided (LOT, mean = 25.2 years) (p = 0.013), DE and DSI (p = 0.004), and between DE and LOT (p = 0.03). Gender, education, disease severity, LOT, and DSI influenced DE. Negative affectivity and LOT (mean = 25.2 years) influenced DSI.

The findings of this study indicate that when the family caregiver of a patient with COPD is present, he or she is able to provide valid and reliable assessments of the patient's dyspnea severity. During acute exacerbations of dyspnea, persons with COPD are often unable to speak for themselves and these experienced family caregivers may be valuable partners with nurses and other healthcare providers to represent the patient's responses and needs.