You, the caregiver, are a very important part of the care team. Many people feel grateful to be able to care for their child, spouse, friend or family member who has a health problem.
However, caregiving is a complex responsibility, and the stress of being a caregiver can strain your own health.
You might have heard the saying, "You must care for yourself in order to care for others." It's not always easy advice to follow.
Here you can learn how to help you care for yourself and find information on how best to help a person with a specific heart condition.
Caring for a child with a heart defect or someone with heart disease can be stressful. It demands a lot of your time and energy. That’s why you need to take steps to protect your own well-being.
Why, you ask? Caregiving—whether it’s for a child, a partner, parent or another family member—can take a toll on your physical and emotional health. “Caregiver burnout,” as it’s been called, is especially likely if you have prolonged periods of stress and disruption in your life.
In fact, studies show caregivers are more prone to depression, heart disease, high blood pressure, and other chronic illnesses than their peers, all else being equal.
So, although it might sound selfish, the best thing you can do for your loved one is to take care of yourself. If you are exhausted or full of anxiety, you certainly won’t do them or yourself any good.
Like many caregivers, you probably didn’t know exactly what caregiving would entail until you suddenly found yourself in the thick of it.
Unfortunately, this new charge is often thrust on us when we least expect it. It also happens just as we are trying to come to terms with the news of a loved one’s diagnosis and what it means for their—and our—future.
There is a lot to keep up with when caring for someone with heart disease. But try not to feel overwhelmed.
Being a caregiver to someone with a heart condition or who has survived a heart attack or stroke can be an ongoing commitment.
Unlike taking care of someone who has a broken leg, the flu or another short-lived health issue, caring for someone with a chronic condition may mean years—even decades—of medical visits, treatments and lifestyle changes to help prevent problems.
Caregiving can also take an emotional toll and change relationships if you don’t take the time to talk about it.
The old saying, “It’s a marathon, not a sprint,” certainly applies. But if you can plan ahead, you may find the journey much smoother.
If you are a caregiver to someone with heart disease or who is recovering from a heart attack or stroke, you will need support too. Here are some resources that can help.
No one knows what you are faced with every day quite like another caregiver. Support groups are a great way to:
Many hospitals and medical centers offer counseling services for patients and families and can also refer you to a local support group.
These days, many groups meet online—creating online communities that are even accessible on a smartphone.
You are probably used to talking with your loved one’s cardiologist, nurse or primary care doctor, but you should consider reaching out to other members of their heart care team too.
Social workers, dietitians, psychologists and patient navigators can offer valuable support and are available to patients and their families in many hospitals and medical centers.
Social workers can provide counseling and will also help link you with community and national organizations that may be able to offer additional support.
Patient navigators advocate for you and your loved one. They can help answer questions and guide you through the treatment process, helping to ease the burden of caring for someone with cardiovascular disease.
Ask you doctor’s office, local hospital or medical center if they have a patient navigator or advocate on staff.
Unfortunately, financial concerns often come with caring for someone with heart disease. Even if the person has good health coverage, out of pocket expenses for doctor’s appointments, procedures and tests and medications can quickly add up.
There are prescription assistance programs available and social workers and patient navigators can sometimes help.