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    Caregiving After Surgery for Heart Failure

    Some people with heart failure have a loved one who serves as their caregiver after surgery.

    If this caregiving role applies to you, you'll probably be given care instructions during the first phase of recovery. This phase lasts about 6 to 8 weeks. The recovery time may be shorter for those who had minimally invasive surgery.

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    Typical instructions include:

    Care of the Surgery Wound

    In order to protect a surgery wound after surgery, it’s important to:

    • Keep it clean and dry.
    • Use only soap and water to cleanse the area.
    • Eat a healthy diet to help healing.

    Call the doctor if you see signs of infection. These can include:

    • Increased drainage or oozing from the incision
    • Opening of the incision
    • Redness or warmth around the incision
    • Fever greater than 100.4 F

    You should also call the doctor if your loved one says his or her sternum (the breastbone) feels like it moves, or if it pops or cracks with movement.

    Pain Relief After Surgery

    Some muscle or incision discomfort, itching, tightness, or numbness along the incision are normal after surgery for heart failure. But the pain should not be similar to what was felt before surgery. Your loved one will get a prescription for a pain medication before they leave the hospital.

    Driving After Surgery

    Your loved one's doctor will tell them when they can drive again. This usually happens 6 to 8 weeks after surgery. It may be shorter if their surgery was minimally invasive. During this time, they can be passengers as often as they like.

    Activity After Surgery for Heart Failure

    The doctor will tell your loved one when they’re able to return to daily activities. But for the first 6 to 8 weeks, follow these guidelines.

    Slowly increase activity. Household chores aren’t a problem, but standing in one place longer than 15 minutes isn’t recommended.

    If it’s heavy, don’t mess with it. They shouldn’t lift anything heavier than 10 pounds. Pushing or pulling heavy objects isn’t a good idea, either.

    Unless restricted by doctor's orders, climbing stairs is allowed. But climbing up and down stairs several times during the day, especially when the patient first arrives home, isn’t recommended. When planning activities, try to arrange them so your loved one goes downstairs in the morning and back upstairs when it is time for bed.

    Walk daily. Guidelines for walking will be given to you or your loved one by the doctor or a cardiac rehabilitation specialist when the person you’re caring for goes home.

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