Photo from healthykidstoday.org
(This is the third in a series of articles about heart disease, in honor of heart month).
When we think of caregivers the first thing that comes to mind is dementia. The two go hand in hand. But there are other health problems with long recovery times or permanent disabilities that require the services of a caregiver. Heart disease is one.
Heart disease covers a wide range of disorders. Most people are familiar with heart attacks (myocardial infarction), rhythm disturbances such as atrial fibrillation, and hardening of the arteries (arteriosclerosis). These and many more heart problems can result in long term disability and the need for caregiver assistance.
Some of the same disabilities a caregiver may see with a dementia patient are the same in certain heart patients. The heart patient can have confusion post-surgery, for example. Usually this resolves, but often it may take months for the patient to fully recover. The confusion can appear similar to that seen in a dementia patient. The patient may have difficulty remembering family members, where he lives, and other simple items. There is a definite need for help with day-to-day activities such as dressing and eating. Physical limitations are probably the biggest hurdle to overcome. Many patients, especially after surgery, either can’t walk due to weakness or are limited to walking only a few feet at a time. Bypass surgery is a common example of when that may occur. Obviously, if mobility is limited a patient has to rely on others for support.
The caregiver should not try to handle all the tasks alone. There are resources to help you manage your way. Home health services can help with bathing, dressing, and medication administration. Home care services, which are non-medical, can help with cooking, cleaning and transportation. Finally, don’t forget that there are other people out there like you. Reaching out to those who share your struggles is a good way to learn how to manage the tasks and help you cope. A support group will offer solutions to the caregivers, since most will experience stress. The group provides a means for those who are in similar situations to talk about their problems.
The American Heart Association offers online support by connecting caregivers with others who are going through similar experiences. You can ask a question on the site and get responses from other caregivers. Better yet, you can select the category of heart disease that fits your situation. The categories cover all possible situations and include those who have had bypass surgery, heart failure, and cardiac arrest, just to name a few. There are plenty of caregiver stories you can read which shows that you are not alone in your challenges. In addition, you can ask medical questions and receive answers from certified health care providers who work in the field of heart disease. It is a good way to learn about your loved one’s particular disease process. Videos are available which provide even more learning experiences.
There are plenty of health problems other than dementia that require the services of a caregiver. Heart disease is a common problem that can result in chronic or permanent disability. It is not unusual for heart patients to require the services of a caregiver. Caregivers in these situations deal with the same stressors as the dementia caregiver. Support groups are one way of finding answers and connecting with others who are in the same situation. The American Heart Association helps caregivers find the group that fits their needs with the convenience of online services.
American Heart Association.