Being a caregiver adds an extra layer of responsibility to your life, whether you’re a parent, relative, or friend. Now couple this with managing a home, work, and being there for your loved ones.
When a close family member or friend falls ill, it’s a juxtaposition that takes some getting used to. In Canada, there are more than half a million people living with heart failure. Despite this, research conducted by the Heart and Stroke Foundation revealed that one in four people do not know what this chronic illness is.
In the last ten years, heart failure hospitalizations have increased by 25%, particularly in adults between the ages of 30 to 39. This means that a higher percentage of people across the country are adjusting to life with an illness they perhaps never even knew existed.
There is currently no cure for heart failure, however, those living with the cardiovascular disease can learn to manage their illness and continue to live a full life. That being said, we’ve compiled a roundup of things every caregiver to someone living with heart failure should know.
It’s good to talk openly
Adjusting to a new life with heart failure can make anyone feel overwhelmed. However, sitting down with your loved one and asking them to explain heart failure and their symptoms in simplistic terms can give you a greater understanding of how you can best support them. Attending medical appointments with them also helps provide clarity on how you can assist them with everyday tasks and responsibilities.
Schedule time for activities
It’s salient for heart failure patients to stay active since exercising helps keep the heart healthy and boosts mood. Enjoying regular activities is a fantastic way to spend time together doing something you will both appreciate. This could be a short stroll along the beach, attending a yoga class, or swimming at your local community centre. This will help you stay connected and enjoy each other’s company in a non-medical environment.
Lend a helping hand
Living with heart failure results in the heart muscle working overtime. During increased activity or when patients are under stress, this can cause tiredness, shortness of breath, and a feeling of simply being worn out. It’s important to remember that your loved one may not be able to live life at the speed they once did. You can lend a helping hand by offering to pick up the kids from school or doing the grocery shopping. This way, you’ll be giving the person you care about a break when they need it.
Help make a list of medications
Preparing for emergency situations can offer heart failure patients, and those around them, peace of mind. This could be as simple as helping them to write a list of their medications and emailing it to family members and close friends. As a result, you will be aware of the medications they are taking and perhaps those that they are allergic to. Remember to add their GP and cardiologist’s contact details to this list, too.
Discuss support group options
Those living with heart failure are at a higher risk of feeling stressed or anxious. Even so, they may not want to burden you with their worries. This is where social and peer support comes in. Joining a support group and connecting with others who are in a similar situation, can help alleviate their feelings. You can explain the benefits of support groups to your loved one and discuss how they can share their story without fear of judgement or resentment.
The Heart and Stroke Foundation offers a detailed list of avenues for support across Canada which can be viewed here. Heart failure patients and caregivers can also join our online support group (linked below) at any time. Always remember that you are not alone on this journey as a caregiver.
IF YOU’RE LIVING WITH HEART FAILURE, OR SOMEONE YOU LOVE HAS THIS CHRONIC ILLNESS, CLICK HERE TO VISIT OUR CLOSED FACEBOOK SUPPORT GROUP AND JOIN THE CONVERSATION.