For Family and Carers
As the carer of a patient with heart disease, you may at times need to search for additional advice, support and information.
The St Vincent's Hospital Heart Health website is designed to help you understand the specific heart condition your loved one has been diagnosed with. Through this website, you will be able to support your friend or family member as they navigate their journey - from the point of diagnosis through to tests, procedures, treatments and follow-up care.
It’s common to feel a range of emotions, including shock, worry and fear, when someone you care about is diagnosed with a heart condition. Improving your understanding of heart disease can help to relieve any feelings of worry and reduce the fear of the unknown.
When patients are admitted to hospital with heart disease, they will usually need to have tests and procedures very quickly. As the focus is on them, you may feel left out - and it can sometimes be difficult to know what’s going on.
The St Vincent's Hospital Heart Health website will help you to find the information you need, whenever you need it, from wherever you like. All you need is an internet connection.
As you follow your loved one’s journey, you may find you have specific questions or concerns. It’s helpful to write down any points for discussion as they arise, so you don’t forget to ask the medical team later on. Some examples of common questions and concerns include:
- Where can I find help after hours?
- When do I need to call an ambulance?
- What do I do if the patient won’t take their medications?
- How do I know when signs and symptoms become serious?
- I don’t think I can do this
Being a carer can be physically and emotionally stressful and exhausting. You may need to rearrange your work, home and family commitments during this time. As a result, you may feel a range of emotions, including anger, guilt and frustration - and, at the same time, experience feelings of concern and gratefulness. Remember, all of these feelings are completely normal and natural.
If you feel as if you’re struggling to cope with your responsibilities as a carer, don’t be afraid to reach out to others and ask for help. The first step is to discuss your feelings with someone who can help, such as a friend, counsellor or your loved one’s medical team.
Looking after yourself
It’s also very important that you take the time to look after yourself. Here are some tips to help you stay healthy:
- Take time out regularly - arrange for another friend or family member to step in for an hour or so to give you time out
- Eat well - try and eat a healthy diet with plenty of fresh produce, whole grains and low-fat dairy to keep you feeling well
- Sleep - ensure you are getting around 8 hours of sleep every night, and aim to go to bed at the same time each day
- Accept offers of help from others - you don’t have to do this alone, so when others offer help you shouldn’t feel ashamed to accept it
- Talk about your feelings - if your responsibilities are all becoming too difficult, discuss your feelings with another friend, family member or doctor
Supporting your loved one
As a carer, you have a huge opportunity to make a difference in the health of the person you are caring for. Understanding and supporting your loved one’s ongoing plan is a key step towards ensuring they recover well and go on to live a healthy, fulfilling life. This may involve actions like encouraging their recommended lifestyle changes, and taking them to their follow-up appointments and cardiac rehabilitation program.
Sometimes, you can feel overprotective. Try and encourage the person you are caring for to be independent and understand their own limitations.
Finally, if possible, aim to familiarise yourself with common signs and symptoms of a heart attack - as well as Basic Life Support guidelines.
The following resources can help you in emergencies: