Taking Care of a Loved One After a Heart Attack

When someone you care for suffers a heart attack, the patient feels fragile, you feel frightened and life feels different. Even if the patient is referred to hospice care, life after a heart attack, stroke or any heart procedure goes on.

Some candid conversation will help everyone feel better, and it can start with you, the caregiver, because heart disease touches more than the person who has suffered the heart attack. Here is what you should strive to communicate.

Feelings of Guilt

Bring up subjects like the fear and guilt about having “let” this heart problem happen. Even if the feelings are unfounded, they need to be aired honestly.

Advance Directives

After a heart attack, it's possible that death looms on everyone’s mind. Before the next health crisis, talk honestly about finances, the house, wills, advance directives, etc., to help everyone feel prepared for the future. VITAS can help facilitate advance care planning discussions with patients, caregivers and physicians. Just ask.

Clarification From Your Doctor

When you’re overwhelmed or scared, it’s easy to forget a doctor's instructions or advice. Accompany your loved one to the doctor's office. Write down your concerns. Write down the doctor's answers. Ask for clarification if you don’t understand. Be the authority you are: You know the daily issues, you see symptoms others don’t, you know where you need help (medication management? compliant behavior? education?).

Your Need for Support

Join a support group, or make an appointment with your faith leader or a therapist. Accept offers from people who volunteer to help with (heart-healthy) grocery shopping, household chores or go give you a break.

Habit Changes

Talk about the need for new habits, like finding new ways to eat and carving out time to exercise. Can you both attend physical therapy and learn to exercise together? Take advantage of a gym membership? Or just get out of the house for a walk?

Doing Things Apart

Your new life throws you together, but you will be happier and more interesting if you also do things apart occasionally.

The Future

Tomorrow is another day and an opportunity to embrace quality of life all the way to the end of life. Plan a trip, look forward to family traditions, learn a new skill.

Find out if hospice care could help your loved one.

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