Life After a Heart Attack
The patient feels fragile. You feel frightened. Life feels different. But there is, thank goodness, life after a heart attack, stroke or any heart procedure. And the good news is, with a little effort, everything will get stronger: the heart, the patient, you and life in general.
First, be mindful that the illness touches your loved ones as well as yourselves. Some candid conversation will help everyone feel better, and it can start with you.
Here is what you should strive to communicate.
Feelings of Guilt
Bring up subjects like the fear and guilt others feel about having “let” this heart problem happen.
Talk about what will happen if any of you die. Death is on everyone’s mind, and talking about it won’t make it happen; in fact, talking about finances, the house, wills, advance directives, etc., will help everyone feel prepared for the future.
Clarification From Your Doctor
Talk to your physician—together. When you’re overwhelmed, it’s easy to forget what the doctor tells you or what you want to say. Go into the doctor’s office together, armed with a notebook. Write down your concerns. Write down what the doctor says. 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. You may just want to enlist the hands-on help of the people who offer: someone to do the (heart-healthy) grocery shopping, to give the caregiver a break for an afternoon, to do chores that are going undone.
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. Whether it’s getting a manicure or seeing a movie, or catching up with friends.
Intimacy In the Bedroom
If your sex life has changed with your partner, talk about it frankly. Approach sex gradually, like a new couple exploring one other. Find new ways to feel close despite any physical limitations.
See inevitable change as a new lease on life. Plan a trip, look forward to family traditions, learn a new skill. Tomorrow is another day and an opportunity to live life to it's fullest.