If you’re caring for a loved one with a heart condition, such as abnormal heart rhythms, pericardial disease, or aortic aneurysms, you may feel overwhelmed.
These feelings are normal, but we have some tips to help make caring for your loved one easier and more successful.
What Qualifies as Heart Condition?
Before discussing how to care for someone with a heart condition, let’s briefly define what qualifies as a heart condition or disease.
- Unstable angina
- History of heart attack
- History of stroke
- Heart failure
- Arrhythmia (abnormal heart rhythms)
- Valve disease
- High blood pressure
- Congenital heart conditions or disease
- Inherited heart conditions
- Coronary artery disease
- Pericardial disease
- Hypertensive heart disease
- Rheumatic heart disease
- Aortic aneurysms
- Peripheral artery disease
- Thromboembolic disease
- Venous thrombosis
These are the most common heart diseases and conditions, but there are more. If you’re caring for a loved one with any of the above heart problems, the tips below can help.
8 Tips for Caring for a Loved One With Heart Problems
Below are eight helpful tips for caring for your loved one.
1. Advocate for Them
Dealing with doctors, understanding treatment plans, and asking hard questions can be difficult for a person with a heart condition. You must advocate for them by making appointments, speaking with their doctors, asking questions about their condition and treatment, and overall acting as a liaison between your loved one and their healthcare professionals.
This is especially important when it comes to men’s health, as they are often less likely to seek medical attention and discuss health concerns openly. Not only does this take a huge weight off their shoulders, but it ensures you have a first-hand understanding of the care they need. Hearing the information second-hand can cause miscommunications or misunderstandings.
2. Listen and Talk to Them
Listen to your loved one’s needs and ask them what they are. While your primary responsibility is to care for their physical health, their emotional and mental needs are just as important.
Ask them frequently if there are any symptoms they’ve been experiencing or something that is making them unhappy. They may want to spend more time outside or see friends often, but you won’t know unless you ask or listen to what they tell you.
3. Acknowledge Their Hard Work
Many people with heart problems have to make drastic changes in their life. They must alter their diet, exercise regimen, medications, and many other aspects of their lives. Since these are things they simply have to do to stay healthy and alive, it’s still a considerable effort and it’s thoughtful to acknowledge this.
Your loved one may have been a devout carnivore before the diagnosis, so if they’re eating vegetables and grains at every meal, it can’t be easy. Tell them you’re proud of them and you know how hard it’s been to make these changes, but you love them and are glad they’re working hard to stay well. Small words of encouragement can go a long way.
4. Learn About the Condition and Medications
Since you will be part of the conversations with doctors, take this opportunity to ask questions about your loved one’s condition, symptoms, treatment options, and medications. You can never know too much, and don’t be afraid to ask, as that’s what healthcare professionals are there for!
You can also ask pharmacists about medications or do research online using reputable sites like The Heart Foundation site or the CDC website. The more you know, the more you can help your loved one remain healthy.
5. Know What Symptoms to Monitor
This tip goes hand in hand with the one above, but you must learn what symptoms to monitor and look out for. You may need to routinely check your loved one’s blood pressure, heart rate, and weight to ensure their heart condition is being managed properly.
Your loved one’s doctor will tell you what symptoms to keep an eye out for, such as leg swelling, sudden weight gain, chest pain, numb extremities, or back pain, to name a few. Know what symptoms to look for so you can get your loved one the proper care if something starts to go wrong.
6. Encourage Physical Activity
Depending on the heart condition, your loved one may need to get more physical activity to maintain or improve their weight and heart health.
Many people struggle to stick to an exercise schedule even when they’re perfectly healthy, so you may have to encourage your loved one to do the recommended physical activity. You can exercise with them to make it a bonding activity, and you can burn some calories! Discuss the best physical activities for your loved one with their doctor.
7. Focus On Nutrition
Along with regular exercise, your loved one will also need to improve their diet. As their caregiver, you can make them healthy meals and ensure they consume all the nutrition they need.
You can discuss the best type of diet with your doctor, but there are also many heart-healthy meal plans online that can guide you. But it’s not complicated. They should cut out red meat and foods high in sugar, and focus on vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and low-fat proteins.
8. Take Care of Yourself
Lastly, you cannot care for your loved one if you don’t care for yourself first. Ensure you eat well, care for your mental health, get enough sleep, and make time for yourself. While you may be the primary caregiver, you don’t have to do this alone. You can ask other family members to care for your loved one for a day or so if you need a break.
There are respite services that can care for your loved one so you can take time for yourself. And if you just need somewhere to vent about how stressful caregiving can be, join a local or virtual caregiver support group, where you can talk about the difficulties with people who understand and won’t judge you.
The Weight of Being a Caregiver
You must acknowledge that being a caregiver, especially for someone you love and care about, is a stressful and taxing job. There is no reason for you to feel guilty if you need a break or ask someone else for help.
When your loved one is diagnosed with heart rhythms, heart conditions, or diseases, you may feel overwhelmed, depressed, worried, isolated, or even guilty. But you must care for yourself and address your mental, physical, and emotional needs so that you can properly care for them.