Being a family caregiver for a heart patient can be a challenge. But a few simple tips can make the experience better for both you and your loved one.
Whether your loved one is returning home from heart surgery or suffers from a chronic heart disease, there are a few things to keep in mind to help you stay healthy while caring for your loved one.
Caring for your loved one
As a caregiver, you will probably be the primary point of contact in absorbing and interpreting medical information concerning your loved one’s condition. The first step you will need to take is to learn what the diagnosis and what the best course of treatment are for your loved one. With many heart conditions, rehabilitation after a surgery or incident centers on avoiding triggers and risk factors. Keeping your loved one on the right path includes promoting healthy eating, avoiding smoking, and getting adequate exercise.
During this process, it is important to take note of your loved one’s mental state. Depression can creep in for someone who is being cared for, so if you notice a change in mood or attitude, take note and let your loved one’s doctor know. It is also important to know the symptoms of a heart attack, stroke and angina. A heart attack is characterized by chest or upper body discomfort, shortness of breath, cold sweat or nausea. A stroke is recognized by weakness in the face and arms, dizziness, or trouble speaking. Angina often feels like squeezing or burning under the breastbone.
As a caregiver for your loved one, you will want to make sure you have the contact information for your loved one’s doctor, nurse, or other care manager.
Getting things done
Chances are, as a caregiver for someone with a heart condition, you are responsible for performing some of the day to day activities and chores around the house. Especially if your loved one has just returned from the hospital for surgery, he or she may only be able to do limited physical activity. Some ways you can help include driving to the grocery store, to doctor visits, to the pharmacy. Cooking and cleaning, especially if there is a second floor. You may also need to take an active role in establishing and following a medical regimen of taking medications and doing any required physical therapy.
Caring for yourself
One of the most important things to remember is that you have to take care of yourself. If your health fails or you become too stressed, not only will you feel unwell, you will not be able to care for your loved one properly, either. Some simple things to keep in mind are to take some time for yourself. No one can be expected to care for someone else 24 hours a day, every day. Breaks in caregiving allow you to refresh so that you can come back and provide even better care. Another tip is to recognize your limits as a caregiver. Not only do you not have all the answers, but you cannot be expected to provide help on every level. Get help when you need it so that you don’t get overwhelmed and so your loved one gets the very best care.
Medical alert monitoring can help
If you don’t live with the loved one you care for, or if she is alone for extended periods of time, consider getting a medical alert monitoring system. Such a system can act as a backup for the times you are not there, providing both you and your loved one with peace and confidence.
Sources: American Heart Association, eMedicineHealth.com