Heart attack’s double whammy: Helping a loved one bounce back

March 29, 2018 | by Edward-Elmhurst Health
Categories: Healthy Driven Hearts

Your 50-year-old husband is home from the hospital after treatment for a heart attack. You expected him to face physical challenges after his ordeal, but the emotional wallop he’s dealing with has surprised you. His reaction isn’t unusual.

According to the American Heart Association, many people experience strong emotions after a heart attack. These might include depression, anxiety, fear and even anger.

Beyond the early recovery tasks like driving to appointments, picking up prescriptions and preparing healthy meals, there are ways you can help your loved one recover after a heart attack emotionally as well, according to Terri Fahey, RN, cardiac nurse in the Edward Hospital Cardiac Rehabilitation Program:

  1. Talk with your loved one about how they’re feeling. Emphasize listening, rather than trying to give advice.
  2. Information can help your loved one feel more confident about the future. Help with online research to provide details about what to expect, care options and how to reduce risk.
  3. Exercise helps boost mood. When possible, schedule daily activities together, even if it’s just a short walk. 
  4. If the hospital offers the option, consider exercising with your loved one in Phase 3, the maintenance portion of cardiac rehab.
  5. Patients and caregivers alike often benefit from focused stress management, whether it’s meditation, breathing exercises or another relaxation technique.
  6. Encourage your loved one to reach out to friends and relatives to keep from feeling isolated. Arrange brief outings, such as a trip to the movies.
  7. Give your loved one space and independence. Spend some quiet time apart.
  8. Remember change takes time. In cardiac rehab, patients are encouraged to make one change (such as quitting smoking) at a time to avoid being overwhelmed.
  9. Find out about local support groups for cardiac patients and their families. An online networking option for patients is the American Heart Association’s Support Network at www.supportnetwork.heart.org.
  10. Make sure you are getting enough rest, especially if your loved one’s recovery is extended. Consider asking another family member or friend to help out if you’re having trouble balancing other commitments and interests with your care giving.

On the flip side, surviving a heart attack can also bring positive feelings. That might mean satisfaction from having adopted a new, healthier lifestyle post-heart attack. Others say that once the initial shock of having heart disease wore off, they felt more gratitude than ever for each new day of life.

Learn more about the Cardiac Rehabilitation programs at Edward-Elmhurst Health.


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