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Caregiver Tips for Loved Ones With Heart Disease


Diana K. Rodriguez

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If it's been more than a few years since high school biology class, you've probably forgotten what a powerhouse your heart is.
Young couple going for run with running club together

Being a caregiver to a loved one with heart disease presents many challenges. As a caregiver, you'll have several tasks that require attention to detail. You need to monitor medications and diet, and keep track of the person's physical activity. There are also emotional issues to consider. Your loved one may suffer from stress, anxiety or even depression. Caregiving can take an emotional toll on you, too.

When it comes to your loved one taking the necessary steps to better health, your encouragement and support can make the difference. Here's what you need to know.

Cook a Heart-Healthy Diet

Heart-healthy food might sound bland and boring, but it doesn't have to be. And it’s an important part of managing heart disease. You can learn how to prepare tasty meals that are low in sodium, fat and sugar, and rich in whole grains, vegetables and fruits. Experiment with healthier cooking methods too, such as baking, steaming and broiling. And try new foods, such as fish and legumes. You might search online for heart-smart recipes or buy a healthy-eating cookbook with recipes to satisfy the appetite while boosting well-being.

Encourage Exercise

It can be hard to motivate someone else to exercise. Harder still if they're not used to being active. Though you can't force your loved one to exercise, you can encourage heart-healthy movement. One of the best ways is to join them—your own health will benefit, too. Suggest fun activities that promote exercise so that it won't seem like a task. Head outside for a nature walk. Practice yoga. Take a fitness class together. At home, put on an exercise DVD or play an active video game that gets you both off the couch.

Ease Emotions

Heart disease may come with emotional baggage. In fact, depression is common. Stay in tune with your loved one's emotions. And be a sympathetic ear when that's what your loved one needs most. Find ways to help him or her keep a positive outlook. Exercise and social activities can help with this. So can a support group or a counselor. That's especially true if your loved one is struggling with the emotional challenges of having heart disease.

You might want to attend a support group, too. Connecting with other caregivers can be helpful.

Manage Medical Issues

Stay alert for any signs of emotional and physical problems with your loved one. Take notes about symptoms or other issues to relay to healthcare providers.

You'll need to set up appointments for your loved one and handle transportation to and from the visits. A paper or digital calendar can help you keep track of all of them. They're likely to include visits with various professionals, such as a nutritionist and cardiac rehabilitation specialist.

Using a calendar is also a good way to create a medication schedule and know when to order refills. Use a pill organizer to help your loved one take the medicines as directed each day. Ask the doctor or pharmacist about any possible side effects. You'll also want to get familiar with your loved one's health insurance plan. It's important to know what is and isn't covered.

Overcome Unhealthy Habits

If your loved one smokes or drinks too much alcohol, offer support to help them quit. These changes are necessary to improve heart health and prevent other medical issues. Find out about programs that can help with quitting smoking and other tobacco products, alcohol, or illegal drugs.

Care for Yourself

Don't neglect your needs along this journey. You can't be an effective caregiver if your own health suffers. Ask for help from friends and family and accept help when someone offers. Also, find caregiver respite programs in your area if you need a break. And follow your own orders for a healthier lifestyle.

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Medical Reviewers: Farrokh Sohrabi, MD Last Review Date: Nov 18, 2015

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