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Helping a Loved One After Coronary Artery Bypass Graft Surgery

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People in recovery from coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery may need assistance from family members and friends in a variety of ways. You may help your loved one for several weeks during recovery with a number of tasks, including shopping, cleaning, and driving. Also, he or she may rely on you for emotional support.

If you have a family member or other loved one who has just returned home from the hospital after CABG surgery, you may want to know what you can do to help. Your loved one may not be able to do normal activities and may also need a great deal of encouragement and emotional support.

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Day-to-day activities

Your loved one who has just had open-heart surgery may have considerable physical limitations. So he or she may rely on others for help with relatively simple but important tasks. You and your friends and family may choose to assume a large role in managing his or her day-to-day life. You can help by:

  • Shopping for and preparing food. Many people recovering from surgery cannot leave their homes on their own to shop for food. The kinds of foods needed will be low-fat, low-salt, and low-cholesterol.
  • Cleaning. Simple cleaning tasks can be too physically demanding during recovery. But a clean house is crucial to both mood and health (to avoid infections). So you can consider helping to clean house regularly or hiring a maid service.
  • Driving. Your loved one will not be able to drive for 4 to 6 weeks after CABG surgery. It is important that his or her chest bone heals properly, and sudden arm movements or an accident while driving could cause serious injury. But your loved one will need to go to frequent doctor appointments during recovery. You may need to drive him or her to these follow-up appointments as well as to any other destination.
  • Medicines. Your loved one will probably need to take several medicines after CABG surgery. You could help him or her by organizing the medicines. You can get a special pillbox (with one or more compartments for each day of the week) or mark a calendar as a memory aid.

Providing emotional support

Being a full-time caregiver may be an unfamiliar role for you. Maybe you never imagined yourself spending most of your time taking care of a loved one. There are several things you can do to help provide the emotional support needed.

  • Offer encouragement. Adopting the lifestyle changes that doctors recommend for heart disease can be difficult. If your loved one is having trouble or becoming frustrated, encourage him or her to start slowly and build up to the overall goal gradually. You may also offer to change your own lifestyle to encourage healthy behaviors.
  • Offer help, but encourage your loved one to remain active. He or she should try to stay as active as possible. As recovery progresses, moderate exercise and doing simple tasks around the house can be safe. This can help your loved one feel better both physically and mentally. If you are concerned about what activities are safe, speak with the doctor who has been the most involved in your loved one's care.
  • Ask if you can participate in doctor visits. You can offer support by sitting in on doctor visits and taking notes. This can help your loved one remember important instructions and help him or her feel less alone during the recovery experience.
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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: April 06, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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