Chronic obstructive and pulmonary disease (COPD) has detrimental effects on individuals with the disease. COPD causes breathlessness, morbidity and associated psychosocial distress. This study was guided by the phenomenological question what is it like to have COPD and situated in Van Manen's phenomenology of practice. Experiential material was gathered through phenomenological interviews. Four themes emerged from the lived experiences of patients living with COPD: breath as a possibility; being vigilant; fighting a losing battle; and feeling isolated from others. For patients with COPD, breathing becomes ever‐present and shifts from the invisible background of daily living to the central activity around which everyday life is organised. COPD patients always monitor their own breath and scrutinise the environment on possible dangers that can affect their breathing. Whenever moving or being involved in an activity, a part of their mind is preoccupied with the breathing. Although COPD patients realise that no amount of good behaviour will matter and that the decline of their lungs is inevitable, they make every effort to take good care of their body. They anticipate and avoid triggers of breathlessness isolating them from social interactions and activities. The appearance of the body as a source of social embarrassment also has an isolating effect. This study shows that breathlessness is a constant horizon that frames the experience of COPD patients. It is a limiting factor and determines their entire life. A more profound understanding of these experiences in healthcare professionals will contribute to person‐centred care for COPD patients.
- lifeworld-led health care
- lived experiences