D6. Referral to a support group

Patients may benefit from support groups and other community services [evidence level III-2, weak recommendation]

Greater improvements in exercise performance and self-efficacy for exercise have been shown for people with COPD who received education and psychosocial support than for those who received education without support (Ries 1995). Patient support groups aim to empower participants to take a more active role in the management of their healthcare, and thus reduce the psychosocial impact of their disease. Benefits of support groups on quality of life and psychological outcomes in people with COPD have not yet been demonstrated, although studies of other chronically ill patient groups indicate that positive effects can be expected (Kennedy 2007). One pathway to initiate attendance of support groups is through pulmonary rehabilitation programs. The likely benefits of support groups for people with COPD are summarised in Box 10.

Box 10 : Patient support groups

Typical support group activities

  • Regular meetings
  • Guest speakers providing information on a range of topics
  • Receiving and distributing lung health education information
  • Education and information days
  • Exercise programs
  • Social or recreational activities
  • Group newsletters
  • Member to member support (through telephone calls, hospital and home visits)

Benefits of support groups

  • Reinforce and clarify information learnt from health professionals
  • Provide access to new information on lung health
  • Share experiences in a caring environment
  • Empower patients to be more actively involved in their healthcare through self-management techniques
  • Participate in social activities and exercise programs
  • Encourage patients to think more positively about their lung disease
  • Help carers understand lung disease

COPD = chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

A list of Patient Support Group names and locations can be accessed via Lung Foundation Australia’s website at https://lungfoundation.com.au/patients-carers/get-support/support-groups/. Contact details can be obtained from Lung Foundation Australia’s Information and Support Centre (free-call 1800 654 301).

In New Zealand,  Asthma and Respiratory Foundation NZ list Pulmonary Rehabilitation and Support Groups on their website: https://www.asthmafoundation.org.nz/about-us/support-groups, free-call 0800 100 506. Asthma New Zealand  list COPD Support Groups and the ‘Find your local group’ directory: https://www.asthma.org.nz/pages/copd-support-groups, free-call 0800 227 328.