Ann, age 55, was diagnosed with late onset asthma two years ago when she was 53. She is white British, married and has semi-retired from her work in health related research as she was recently made redundant. She is currently thinking about starting a new career teaching English. It took some while for a correct diagnosis to be given and during this time Ann became anxious and worried about what might be wrong with her. After initial diagnosis she was prescribed inhaled steroids but it took about six months to find the right dose and combination. Ann is still finding it difficult sometimes to adjust to some of the lifestyle changes that she has had to make since she was diagnosed.
Ann was diagnosed with Asthma when she was 53. One day she was driving to work when she found herself very short of breath. She thought maybe things would ease off but the next day she still felt unable to breathe properly so she went to see the GP who sent her to the local hospital for tests. There was some delay in getting a referral to see a respiratory specialist partly due to being in the midst of moving house and having to switch GP’s and during this time she became increasingly anxious because she continued to feel extremely unwell but had been given no medication to help with the symptoms.
Once it was established that she seemed to be suffering from asthma, her new GP started her off using a Ventolin inhaler and a low dose preventative inhaler, then once referred to the respiratory clinic she tried a range of inhaled steroid inhalers to see what dose or combination would stabilise her condition. Initially she found that using the Ventolin inhaler made her heart race and she began to have panic attacks. In addition, she found it difficult to come to terms with having asthma and became depressed and anxious, which sometimes exacerbated the symptoms. Two years on she is now taking a relatively high dose of inhaled steroid regularly morning and evening, and sometimes if she gets a cold or infection she may also need to take a course of oral steroids, although this has not occurred to date.
Ann recalls that sometimes in the early days she felt almost suicidal however she was not keen to begin to take anti depressant medication. With the help of talking therapy which has enabled her to learn strategies to manage her anxiety she is starting to feel much more hopeful about the future. One of the things she has found difficult have been the changes that she has had to make to her life because of her asthma. For the first six months after diagnosis Ann took sick leave from work and although she was able to return, she went part time. However, last year she was made redundant and she is now re-thinking her work/life balance and hoping to re-enter the workplace having re-trained to do a different job that she feels might provide her with the flexibility she feels she needs to ensure that she can continue to manage her asthma. Having always worked full time and been financially independent she has had to come to terms with having to rely on her husband at the present moment and she worries that she will not be offered jobs if employers know about her limitations, and her age.
Ann’s asthma is often triggered by cold weather and changes in temperature and humidity and so she now finds herself having to be careful about where she goes, when she goes out, and what activities she participates in. Ann has always enjoyed outdoor activities and now finds that things she used to be able to do like hill walking in remote areas are out of bounds so she is working on finding new interests and things to occupy her free time.
As a general rule she says she finds it best to focus her thoughts on what she can do, rather than on what she can’t although sometimes she says this can be difficult to achieve.