Coronary Artery Disease: Helping a Loved One
How can I help a loved one who has coronary artery disease?
If you have a family member or other loved one who has coronary artery disease (CAD) or has just returned home from the hospital due to a complication of CAD, you may want to know what you can do to help. Your loved one may be able to perform fewer normal activities and may also require a great deal of encouragement and emotional support. This article provides some guidelines on helping with daily activities and offering emotional support to loved ones who are recovering from CAD-related hospitalization.
What if CAD turns into end-stage heart failure?
Your loved one may need special assistance if CAD leads to heart failure. Heart failure typically results in a weakened heart, one that cannot pump blood in sufficient quantities to the body. Often, people with end-stage heart failure are not able to execute all the tasks and activities that they once performed with ease, and they may rely on you for both emotional support and physical assistance. As you read this article, you may want to consider how you may help a loved one in either situation: recovery from a CAD-related hospital stay or the later stages of heart failure.
How can I help with daily activities?
People who have CAD may experience considerable physical limitations because of chest pain or shortness of breath with exertion or because of severe weakness. These people may therefore rely on others for help with relatively simple but important tasks. If your loved one experiences trouble with daily activities, you and your family may choose to assume a large role in managing his or her day-to-day life. Some of the ways in which you can help are listed below.
How can I provide emotional support?
Being a full-time caregiver may be an unfamiliar role for you and one in which you never imagined yourself. There are several things you can do to help provide the emotional support that your loved one needs at this time:
Why is it important to also look after myself?
Looking after a loved one who has CAD can be mentally and physically challenging, especially in the end stages of the disease. There are steps you can take to help make the situation more manageable for yourself. Remember that you will be an effective and loving caregiver only if your own physical health and mental outlook remain good.
If you are having difficulty coping with your feelings, you should not feel ashamed or embarrassed about seeking advice and counseling from appropriate sources, such as other family members, trained mental health professionals, or religious advisers. Look for peer groups. You may be able to find support groups for people with caregiving responsibilities. Talking to other people who are in similar situations may be a valuable way for you to share your concerns and also to gather information.
When should I seek outside help?
Unfortunately, some families cannot assume care for a loved one with severe heart failure without enlisting outside help. Economic stresses may be overwhelming and, if all the family members are at work, adequate at-home supervision and care for the patient may not be possible. Additionally, some people with heart failure require more care than their family can be reasonably expected to provide. In these cases, you may consider placing your loved one in a long-term care facility.
The available long-term care options depend on an individual's level of independence and need for nursing supervision. Some people will still be able to perform basic activities on their own but may need assistance preparing meals and sorting medications. Such individuals may be well cared for in a supervised living facility where food is provided and staff is available to assist them if needed, but routine nursing care is not provided.
Other people with end-stage heart failure may have difficulty performing basic activities and may be better served in a nursing home where the staff can assist them with eating and bathing. In these more closely monitored settings, nurses can track your loved one's heart failure symptoms and ensure that he or she takes medications appropriately.
It is important for people in these facilities to feel that they are still a part of their family. Frequent visits by family members or day trips to the family home go a long way in improving their emotional health. At first, you may think that paying for elder care will be prohibitively expensive. However, there may be options available to make it more manageable.
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