Filipinos are known for their hospitality. Caring for others comes almost second nature to them, and nowhere is it more evident than when a loved one is stricken with a severe illness such as heart disease, especially during these trying times as the world battles a global health crisis.

According to the World Health Organization, heart disease continues to be the leading cause of death worldwide. The condition is naturally difficult for the patient, both physically and mentally, but a study suggests that it’s just as difficult for the caregiver.

If you’re looking for advice on the best way to take care of a heart disease patient and yourself, you’ve come to the right place. Below is an infographic with everything you need to know about heart disease care.

Boehringer Ingelheim Info15 Edited

 

Ways to Provide Physical Support1, 2

Having heart disease can disrupt a patient’s daily routine. Caring for someone with heart disease means helping out with various tasks that the patient may not otherwise be able to perform since diagnosis.

  1. Manage day-to-day activities

Caregiving isn’t only about helping the patient recover. It’s also about lending a hand in managing their daily lives. Be prepared to do household chores and assist them with things like getting dressed or climbing the stairs. Encourage them to take it easy to avoid worsening their heart condition.

You might also have to run errands on their behalf to eliminate their risks of getting exposed to the COVID-19 virus. This may include picking up the groceries, settling payments in the bank, and more.

  1. Check vitals

Medical professionals often check a heart disease patient’s vital signs to monitor their health. If your loved one needs to stay indoors due to the pandemic, be sure to check their body temperature, pulse, breathing rate, and blood pressure throughout the day to see how they’re doing. Record the readings, including the time and date of checking, in a notebook or notes app.

  1. Prepare medications

Doctors may prescribe heart disease patients various medicines at different dosages and schedules. In a list, track their medications, when they should take them, and how much they should take to avoid making mistakes.

  1. Communicate with professionals

As the caregiver, you will need to schedule the patient’s doctor’s appointments and heart assessment check-ups, apart from keeping tabs on their medications and treatments. Keeping in contact with their physician, either in-person or via teleconsultation, is also the best way to monitor their health status, as you can ask any questions or concerns about caring for the patient. 

  1. Prepare heart-healthy meals

Having a proper diet is vital to a patient’s recovery. You need to help them decrease the sodium and saturated and trans fats they consume as they can worsen heart conditions. Replace them with home-cooked heart-healthy meals consisting of fruits, vegetables, and fiber-rich ingredients. If you aren’t sure which food is suitable for them, ask the doctor for meal recommendations. 

Additionally, it’s good to encourage them to stay hydrated to help them manage their overall health.

  1. Encourage quality sleep

Getting a good night’s rest is essential to stay healthy, especially for those with heart conditions, since it can also help prevent heart attacks. Adopting routines such as keeping the room dark and cool at night and waking up at the same time every day can improve the quality of their sleep and improve their energy throughout the day.

  1. Help quit smoking

If the patient has a history of smoking, it’s vital to help them quit it. Smoking can clog coronary arteries, limiting vital blood flow to the heart and increasing the chances of a heart attack. Even second-hand smoking can still affect the patient’s health, so it’s a must to keep the home as smoke-free as possible.

 

Ways to Provide Emotional Support1, 3

Having heart disease isn’t easy on the body and the mind. Mental health conditions such as anxiety have been connected with heart disease, and that’s why caring for their mental health is just as important. Below are some tips to help you better support the patient emotionally. 

  1. Check in on them regularly

Having someone look after you when you’re sick is essential for recovery—just like how you want someone to care for you, check in on the patient often. Ask how they’re feeling and what’s on their mind. They may be feeling something that isn’t obvious just by looking at them.

  1. Lend your ear

While pleasant conversations with the patient can benefit them, simply listening to them can be good enough. Practice active listening, and show them that you’re truly there for them. 

As caregivers, you may never fully understand what they’re going through, so avoid giving unsolicited advice or waiting for your turn to reply. Learn to hear them out and acknowledge their feelings.

  1. Promote physical activities

You can encourage them to do light physical activities with you, such as brisk walking, helping with chores, or even dancing. Doing these could improve blood pressure, cholesterol, weight control, and quality of life for the patient. 

While adults are generally recommended to do at least 150 minutes of physical activity weekly, it’s still a good idea to consult with a doctor first to know what’s best for the patient.

  1. Help them unwind 

Another way to help them unwind is through laughter since it can reduce artery inflammation and cool down the body’s stress response. Ultimately, it makes it easier to get through emotionally difficult days.

Watch funny movies together or share silly stories to help the patient get their mind off of their struggles for a while. Taking deep breaths can also be a way to calm them down, especially if they’re feeling anxious. It helps relax their heartbeat and lower their blood pressure.

  1. Watch out for depression

There’s a difference between feeling unhappy and being depressed. Depression can increase blood pressure and reduce blood flow to the heart. A few of its common signs include losing interest in what used to excite them, feeling fatigued often, and eating more or less than usual. If you notice these signs, reach out to a mental health expert.

Additionally, you can help cheer them up by celebrating small but significant recovery wins. These can be anything from walking a certain distance to having a daily goal of getting some sun every day. These can help boost their mood and encourage them to keep fighting.

  1. Sit-in on doctor’s visits

Visiting the doctor can feel overwhelming for any patient. Joining them is a simple gesture that can give them the emotional support they need at that time. You can also be in charge of taking important notes during the appointment and asking any helpful follow-up questions about their condition. 

  1. Practice clear communication

You can’t care for the patient well if you don’t know how they’re feeling in the first place; that’s why you need to promote good communication. Be honest, patient, and clear when talking to the patient, and encourage them to do the same to you. 

Remember that you aren’t dealing with robots. By encouraging honesty and openness in conversations, you help create a positive and uplifting environment for the patient.

 

How to Prepare and Cope as a Carer1, 4

As a caregiver, it’s vital to remain as healthy as possible; if you can’t take care of yourself, it will be more challenging to care for someone else. To help you prepare and cope with your role, consider the following tips. 

  1. Study and learn about their illness

Although you’ll be talking to medical professionals most of the time, researching on your own will also be helpful.

Find resources online to know more about your loved one’s heart condition to gauge what they’re going through and study general tips on how to take care of the heart to boost your confidence in your role as a caregiver. Doing so can help you easily familiarize yourself with how to assist them.

  1. Seek support from other caregivers

Not many people understand the struggle of being a caregiver but know you aren’t alone. Join social media groups or online forums dedicated to carers to connect with others who know what you’re going through. Finding people who understand your struggles can ultimately help your emotional well-being.

  1. Know when to ask for help

Avoid thinking that you can do it all by yourself; there’s nothing wrong with asking for help. If you aren’t sure about the patient’s condition, don’t hesitate to talk to a medical professional. Additionally, if you need a breather, ask friends or family to lend a hand.

  1. Make time to relax

Relaxing isn’t selfish; in fact, it’s necessary, as sustained stress can lead to health problems. While you may want to do everything you can to help the patient recover, remember that you need your own rest, too. 

Listen to what your body needs, and don’t be afraid to take breaks. Find time to unwind and do things you enjoy to give your mind and body a rest for a few moments. 

  1. Find healthy ways to release your stress

Avoiding negative emotions won’t help them go away. Instead, find healthy outlets. An active lifestyle benefits your body and mind, so try to fit in a workout session every week to release stress and recharge your batteries.

Dedicate 30 minutes a day to do something physical and get your heart rate up. You can also do resistance training exercises like lunges and lifts, which may help relieve anxiety.  

  1. Stay connected with friends and family

Being a caregiver can feel isolating, but know that you aren’t alone in your struggles. If you’re feeling burnt out and need someone to talk to, reach out to your family and close friends for emotional support. Even through something simple like sharing a meal, spending time with them can lift your spirits, help you cope with stress, and encourage you to keep going.

  1. Go easy on yourself 

Don’t be discouraged if you feel like you can be doing better. When in doubt, assure yourself that you can go through it. Remember that you’re still growing and learning.

Learn to adopt an optimistic mindset not only for yourself but the patient, too. Own your role as a caregiver and be proud of what you do. Every bit of your help counts and serves to make another person’s life better. 

 

Caregivers Need Care, Too 

Heart disease doesn’t just change the patient’s life; it affects the caregiver’s as well. They have their share of difficulties when it comes to caring for someone with heart conditions.

That’s why preparation is so important for dealing with heart diseases—knowing how to physically and emotionally support patients and take care of yourself as the caregiver will help you cope with the stress as you aid in the recovery of your loved one. 

Of course, the best way to deal with heart disease is to avoid it altogether. Look out for yourself and your family; take the heart disease risk test to know how you can prevent dire coronary heart diseases today.

 


 

References:

1https://www.caregiver.org/resource/caregiving-101-being-caregiver/

1https://parade.com/1341250/kaitlin-vogel/caregivers-guide-to-heart-disease/

1https://www.bhf.org.uk/informationsupport/support/support-for-carers/caring-for-a-heart-patient

2https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/vital-signs-body-temperature-pulse-rate-respiration-rate-blood-pressure

2https://www.everydayhealth.com/heart-failure/living-with/tips-for-staying-safe-at-home-with-heart-failure/

2https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/smoking-and-heart-disease

3https://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/heart-failure/heart-failure-your-emotions

3https://www.ottawaheart.ca/the-beat/2016/06/24/10-tips-emotional-health 

3https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/CIR.0000000000000768#d1e750

3https://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/detecting-depression

3https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/heart-disease-and-mental-health

3https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/caregiver-support/communication-tips-for-caregivers

4https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/caregiver-support/caregivers-be-realistic-think-positive

 

Disclaimer: The information provided is for information purposes only and is not meant to be substituted for the advice given by a registered medical practitioner. This should not be used for diagnosing health problems or for self-medication. Boehringer Ingelheim shall not be responsible for any damages or losses arising out of access to or use of information provided.