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:
- Offer encouragement. Adopting lifestyle changes recommended for people with heart disease can be difficult. If the person you are caring for cannot comply with a strict diet or exercise regimen, encourage him or her to start slowly and build up to the ultimate goal over time. You may also offer to alter your own diet or lifestyle to encourage healthy behaviors. This is particularly true for smoking, since it can be nearly impossible for an individual to quit smoking if there is another smoker in the home.
- Help. Offer help, but encourage your loved one to remain active. Even though people who have just been hospitalized have physical limitations, they should still try to stay active as long as this does not cause undue strain. Getting moderate exercise and completing tasks around the house can often be done safely and will help the person you are looking after feel better both physically and mentally. If you are concerned about what level of activity is appropriate, speak with the doctor who has been the most involved in your loved one's care.
- Ask if you can participate in doctor visits. Offer support by sitting in on doctor visits and taking notes. Your loved one will be better able to remember important instructions if you help keep a record.
- Be realistic about the future. Your loved one may be facing a serious situation. You can help prepare for the future by helping review insurance policies, wills, and finances.
- Respect the wishes of the person you are caring for. Discuss living wills and other advance directives, and be clear about wishes concerning artificial life support in case you should be called upon later to make this important decision.
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.
- Enlist help when you need it. If possible, involve other family members or enlist the help of a visiting nurse. You may also hire a food delivery or housekeeping service to help with cooking and cleaning.
- Take time for yourself. Offering care can be stressful and time-consuming. To make sure that you do not burn out and that you can continue to provide love and care, it is very important to make time for activities you enjoy.
- Seek emotional support if you need to. Caring for a loved one who is recovering from a major procedure and who has a chronic disease can be emotionally difficult.
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.