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Home > Wellness > Health Library > Heart Failure: Tips for Caregivers
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.
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
You can help provide the emotional support that your loved one
Living through the last weeks or months of progressive heart failure
can be a very difficult process, requiring all the support a family can
Being a caregiver can be mentally and physically challenging. 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 you are in
good physical and mental shape.
Some families need outside help to care for a loved one with
heart failure. If all of your family members work, it
may not be possible to care for your loved one at home. Some people with heart
failure require more care than their family can reasonably be expected to
provide. In these cases, you may consider placing your loved one in a long-term
The available long-term care options depend on your loved one's
level of independence and need for supervision. Some people with heart failure
are relatively independent and able to perform basic activities on their own,
but they need assistance in preparing meals and sorting their medicines. These
people may be well cared for in a supervised living facility that provides food
and staff but not routine nursing care. Other people may have difficulty
performing basic activities and may get better care in a nursing home where the
staff can assist them with eating and bathing. In a nursing home, nurses can
track your loved one's symptoms and make sure that they take their drugs
It is important for people who are in long-term care facilities to
feel that they are still a part of their family. Frequent visits by family
members or day trips to the family home go a long way in improving these
people's emotional health.
It is important for families to be willing to discuss end-of-life
issues with both their loved one and his or her doctor. A clear decision needs
to be made regarding what to do if your severely sick loved one becomes even
sicker. You and your loved one should decide whether life-support measures
should be used if your loved one's condition becomes more severe. Discuss these
issues with your doctor.
Some people feel very strongly that every possible medical
treatment should be used to prolong their lives. Others feel that if there is
no reasonable chance of their health improving, then the only measures that
should be taken are those that make them as comfortable as possible. This is a
very personal, and can be a very difficult, decision.
It is much easier to make this decision when your loved one feels
relatively healthy and is able to openly express his or her wishes to a family
member or friend. Even if it is uncomfortable, try to give your loved one
support during this tough time.
Fortunately, both large and small foundations exist to help people
pay for medical care that they could otherwise not afford. Many of the
foundations offer grants to pay for other services beyond health care. Many
hospitals in the United States are not-for-profit institutions whose mission is
to provide high-quality health care to the communities they serve. In many
instances, this goal includes delivering medical services to people who cannot
pay for care.
There is also assistance for people who cannot afford the medicines
prescribed for their disease. In the case of medicines, drug manufacturers who
have developed patient assistance programs (PAPs) distribute free or discounted
medicines to people who otherwise could not afford them.
April 26, 2012
Rakesh K. Pai, MD, FACC - Cardiology, Electrophysiology & Stephen Fort, MD, MRCP, FRCPC - Interventional Cardiology
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.
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