Talk with doctors, therapists, and counselors about how to help a
friend or relative living with
Most people don't hesitate when they are called upon to help a loved
one who is ill. But being a full-time caregiver may be an unfamiliar role
for you. It is important to consider the long-term implications of this
commitment, because so many people with heart failure will progress to an end
stage of their disease and will need assistance to survive.
Heart failure is a condition in which the heart can't pump blood effectively to the lungs or the rest of the body.
This can be because the person has developed a weakened heart muscle or because the heart muscle has thickened or stiffened, making it difficult to fill the heart and backing up blood into the lungs.
With heart failure, the weakened heart pumps less blood than usual, causing the kidneys and adrenal glands to produce chemicals that help the body to hold onto salt and water.
The person you are caring for may have considerable physical
limitations and must rely on others for help with relatively simple but
important tasks. You and your family may choose to assume a large role in
managing day-to-day tasks. Some of the ways in which you can help are listed
Shopping for and preparing food. Many people with severe heart failure cannot leave the house on
their own to shop for food. You can help shop for heart-healthy, low-sodium foods. Also, you may be involved with preparing these types of
Cleaning. Simple cleaning tasks can
be too physically demanding for someone with heart failure. You may want to
help clean your loved one's house regularly or hire a maid service.
Driving. A person with heart failure may no
longer be able to drive because of irregular heart rhythms, fainting spells, or
other complications of heart failure. But he or she will need to go to
frequent doctor appointments and will need someone else to drive to these
appointments and to other destinations too.
Drugs. Most people with heart failure require multiple
medicines to control their symptoms. Many of these drugs must be taken several
times each day. Make sure that the person can afford to pay for the medicines.
Help your loved one by organizing the drugs, perhaps using a pillbox with one
compartment for each day of the week or marking a calendar to help keep track
of when to take medicines.
Monitoring symptoms. If your loved one cannot keep track of his or her own weight,
you may need to help. Even small changes in weight can signal a dangerous
buildup of fluid. You should encourage your loved one to weigh himself or
herself at the same time every day and to call the doctor if there is a sudden
increase in weight. Call the doctor if other symptoms of heart failure get
Stairs. If your loved one has trouble
getting around because of heart failure, you may need to consider rearranging
his or her house to make daily tasks easier to do. People with severe
heart failure should not have to climb stairs on a routine basis. If possible,
move your loved one's bedroom to the main floor of the house. If the bathroom
and bedroom are on different floors, a bedside commode may be very helpful.
Temperature. Symptoms of heart failure
often get worse during hot, humid days. Use an air conditioner during the