Helping a Loved One Recover From Heart Surgery
Diet After Heart Surgery
A healthy diet helps the healing process after heart surgery; if needed, the doctor will provide special dietary instructions.
Following surgery, it is common to have a poor appetite. If this is the case, encourage your loved one to try to eat smaller, more frequent meals. If his or her appetite doesn't return within a few weeks, contact the doctor.
Emotions After Heart Surgery
It is common after heart surgery for your loved one to feel sad or blue, but these feelings should pass after the first few weeks. Caregivers should encourage their loved one to:
- Get dressed every day.
- Walk daily.
- Resume hobbies and social activities they enjoy.
- Share their feelings with others.
- Visit with others. Limit visits to 15 minutes at first. Then increase them depending on how they feel.
- Get a good night's sleep.
- Join a support group or cardiac rehabilitation program.
If the patient cannot shake his or her negative feelings, call the doctor.
Sleep After Heart Surgery
Many people complain of having trouble sleeping after heart surgery, but normal sleep patterns should resume within a few months. If a lack of sleep causes behavioral changes, call the doctor.
Caregivers can help a patient improve his or her sleep with these tips:
- If your love one is having pain, encourage him or her to take pain medication about half an hour before bedtime. Offer to arrange the pillows so he/she can maintain a comfortable position.
- Keeping in mind that activity must be balanced with rest during recovery from heart surgery, encourage your loved one not to take frequent naps during the day.
- Encourage your loved one to avoid caffeine in the evenings (such as chocolate, coffee, tea, and colas).
- Suggest listening to relaxing music.
- Encourage a bedtime routine. By following the same rituals, a person's body learns it is time to relax and get to sleep.
What is Mended Hearts?
Mended Hearts is a national volunteer support group for heart patients and their loved ones. If your loved one would like to speak to someone who has had heart surgery, contact Mended Hearts at 1-800-AHAUSA1 (1-800-242-8721).