New Member - Dad COPD Complete Denial - British Lung Foun...

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New Member - Dad COPD Complete Denial

Hi all, I'm a new member. My Dad was diagnosed with COPD around 3-4 years ago. He is in complete denial, he has blamed his illness on everything from a mystery infection and TB to a fish bone being stuck in his throat!! He refuses to stop smoking so we estimate he's on 40-50 a day. He won't listen to the doctors and medical professionals, he just thinks everyone (including us) has written him off because he's a smoker. He's now down to 7 stone and won't take the mucus thinning drugs (because he doesn't believe it's COPD) so consequently he won't drink protein drinks because of the milk which would thicken the mucus and make it harder to breathe. He genuinely believes that the cigarettes are helping him because with every puff he nearly coughs up his lungs which he thinks is helping to clear this mystery infection that he's currently convinced he has. His wife and I are at our wits end. Having tried everything to persuade him to stop smoking we are well beyond that now, we accept it will never happen, he won't even discuss it. He has said he would rather die that give up smoking. Does anyone have any experience of dealing with someone in such complete denial? It's a very, very difficult situation and I have no connection with the medical team, they won't speak to me direct so I am relying on the internet for information. From what I read I think he could be at end stage now but I just don't know. Any help or feedback would be very much appreciated.

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17 Replies

Very, very hard for you. Like all addictions I think not a lot will change unless and until your Dad wants to. It simply has to come from him. Having said that sometimes the reaction of others can bring people up short about what they are doing. You haven't mentioned his age. Does he have grandchildren? Any mileage in his realising that they can't visit him because to the smoking?

There are a lot of people here who were smokers, and will tell you how they stopped but the biggest problem, which, of course, you have identified, is his denial.

All the best



Thank you so much for your reply I really appreciate it.

He's 69. No grandchildren. He has a beautiful, young (younger than me) wife who loves him so much but even that is not enough motivation!

I used to smoke too so I totally appreciate the power of the addiction and I respect that it is his life and he has the right to live it how he chooses to, no problem with that, but what I really can't understand is why he won't accept he has COPD... it doesn't make sense. He's not getting any of the help he needs because of his refusal to accept the diagnosis and he's very, very angry with me, with his wife and with all of the medical staff because none of us will take him seriously re this 'other' infection he has!

So hard.

Just talking helps... thank you.


Chunter on as much as you like. It is what this site is for. A brilliant group of people who understand the complexities of a range of lung diseases.

K x


I am sorry for his wife it will be hard for her .there is one way which she can try is get him a ecig and a bottle of tobacco flaver liquid go high like 18 or 24 put it were he sits she has to tell him no more smokeing in the houes at all if he wants a cig go out side as it is causeing her chest to hurt and she has to keep to it that is what the wife done to me and she has to tell him if he do not and he got to go in to hospital he will be on his own as she nor you will be there for him i know it his hard for him as i use to smoke 4 puches of 50 gms a week but now i will only smoke 2 rollys a day sometimes 0 he has said every thing i did but not the smokeing but he is right in one way as he has smoked for many years it will break the gunk on his chest but only the first one or two tell tyre it as before every morning when i use to get up it was very very hard for me to breath but now i do not cough when i get up and i can breath but i have to take a pump so i wish i had lisend to my wife many years ago like 40 years ago show him this as i only wish now is i hope and pray that i reach my 50 years of marrage to her .


I hope you do, David. Take care, Sue xxx

A very warm welcome to you. So sorry to hear of your Dad's denial that he has Copd.

I think he's probably angry with himself because deep down he will know that it's his smoking that's the cause. He needs to admit it to you, not bring his anger out on his family.

It's a very hard situation you are in. Smoking is an addiction & very difficult to stop. The only way forward though, is he must stop.

He would benefit from taking a preventer inhaler & being prescribed the correct meds for his particular Copd symptoms.

All the best, please let us know how you get on. 🌻


Hi there, sorry about the situation with your Dad. I suspect that he does know deep down that the doctors are right but if he admits that to himself then he would have to do something about the smoking. I wonder if that is what is really frightening him - he doesn't think he can give up smoking and/or doesn't want to. When people are angry with everyone, it is often because they are frightened. I'd let him know that if he changes his mind about smoking you will support him but otherwise all you and his wife can do is be there for him. Hard I know, but in the end it's his decision.

Take care,



That's very sad and difficult for you and your dads wife. It's difficult having to witness how your dad is but he won't stop smoking unless he wants to sadly. Sometimes people listen to a medical professional but even that hasn't worked.

Just be there and be as supportive as you can. Take care xxxx


A very big thank you to you all for your replies, it is very helpful to be reminded about how frightened he must be... whatever happens he is my Dad and I will do my best to support him and be patient, kind and understanding. X


Hello, and welcome, though I'm sorry you need to be here.

I agree with everyone else - how could I not? It's so sad and very difficult for you and his wife. It does feel as though he's angry and stubborn and refusing treatment because he's really frightened. And the one thing that he's done in the past to calm him down is to smoke.

If you were able to get him to listen to you about trying to get his nicotine in ways other than smoking, would your GP support you? Nicotine patches, nicotine gum, ecigs - enough to begin with to allow him to realize that he can feel a 'fix' without a cigarette? And that by not smoking he's most likely to clear the infection he imagines he's got and which he's using as an excuse to hide behind.

If your dad's GP won't give you direct contact, surely he/someone would speak to his wife, with you there to support her. It needs to be a team effort!

Come here or phone the BLF helpline, office hours Mon - Fri for information about 'end stage' etc. A lot of what you read on google is inaccurate or simply wrong.

The worst case scenario is that he won't stop smoking or accept treatment, but I don't think you'd have come here if you were ready to accept that just yet.

Thinking of you,


Sue xxx


I would 'guess' that if he admits to himself that he has COPD , then he would have to stop smoking, and I would 'guess' that he does not want to stop smoking, and I understand that and can relate to that. As others have said: addiction is a terrible thing.

There was a similar post a week or so ago that described the viscous circle of addiction. For a lot of people, you find out you have COPD/Lung cancer/heart disease and you learn that was 'probably' caused by smoking, and you end up smoking more in response to the emotional stress. Knowing that he might have COPD, might cause him to smoke even more, even though it does appear to be illogical.

When dealing with anyone one who has a disease/illness caused by addiction, and they continue their addiction when the consequence is death, I always approach it by informing them, then support, support, support...whatever their decision.


Has he ever tried any of the quit methods and failed? If "Yes" then deep down he is aware of the cause of his problem. If "No " I think you need to accept that his addiction has such a hold that it will take an awful lot of effort to convince him that smoking is killing him. As an ex-smoker (pack a day for 60 years) I know how hard it is to break the habit - the e-cig did it for me and coming up to 7 years smokeless, but I had tried everything for years. I really hope you can make some headway.

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Hello again everyone . I am truly amazed that so many people have taken the time and effort to reply to me! Thank you so much .

I've tried encouragement, emotional blackmailing, tears (genuine) for many years to persuade my Dad to give up smoking and so has his wife and the ever patient medical teams have all tried many times but there is absolutely 0% chance....he just doesn't want to stop. He has tried to stop a couple of times in the past but it must be 20 years since the last serious attempt.

My greatest concern at the moment is his weight. He needs nutritional help but he won't see the COPD nutrition team because he doesn't believe that's what he has!!

I don't think there are any answers to the situation just need to be there and support , support , support ! !

Thanks again


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Hi sickdad. I have lung problems but not copd. My sister has it and smokes. I have tried everything to get her to stop but she won't. My husband has Ipf and when he was first told he wouldn't except it and stopped taking all his meds for other medical problems because he thought that was making him cough. He came round eventually with the help of his GP. I know how hard it is when they don't want to admit they have a problem. I think you will have to let your dad take his own course and just be there for him and his partner. It will be tough and I wish you luck. Best wishes xx


i was a heavy smoker. i quit using an e cig and it saved my life. he needs to b on a high dose of nic at first. the e cigs do work!!!

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Hi I think the idea of his wife telling him that his smoking is beginning to affect her and that he must either smoke outside or switch to e-cigs is probably the best way to start. I think a lot of smokers tend to have the attitude that everything gets blamed on smoking, and at one time it did seem like that. I found it took me a long time and my partner watching me every minute to stop me smoking but I did kick it eventually. Your Dad has to realise that every cigarette he smokes is further damaging his already damaged lungs. Shame that somebody who is only 69 would rather die than give up the cigarettes. I wish I had an easy answer for you, but can only hope that maybe his breathing will one day make him see sense before its to late. I really do wish you and his wife all the best but fear you have maybe done all you can it has to come from him wanting to give up the cigarettes.

It does seem extraordinary but I think it is fairly common. The best thing would be to use an ecig but there is really nothing you can do, nobody can be forced to do something if they point blank to help themselves. The patient transport guy who brought me back from the hospital last week was grossly overweight and reeked of fags. He was breathing badly just driving and more out of breath than me walking to his car. And spends all day carting poorly people around. I did my best to persuade him to do something on the drive back but he wouldn't have it, wouldn't even see his gp.

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