Your partner has been glued to the TV watching everything from cheesy reality shows to infomercials. You know heart attack recovery takes time, but now you're wondering - are things ever going to go back to normal?
Caring for a partner after a heart attack can be draining. It's completely understandable to want your comfortable routine back.
Depending on the extent of their attack, they may have been able to leave the hospital in just a few days. But this is just the beginning of recovery - for both of you.
Here are 5 ways you can support your partner while they recover from a heart attack - and stay sane at the same time.
1. Support your partner's need to rest - when appropriate.
When your partner first comes home, you'll want to let them rest and take time to recover. Rest is important for a heart attack - but not forever. If you find yourself catering to their every need, that can slow down their recovery and leave you exhausted. It's just as important for them to get moving again and incorporate light physical activity back into their routine.
Your partner's physician will discuss becoming active again. Follow those instructions - even if that means encouraging your partner to get off the couch. You can do this by:
- Encouraging physical activity by taking walks with your partner, which can also be a good bonding opportunity after what you both have been through.
- Help them begin medically supervised cardiac rehabilitation. With the help of medical professionals like physicians, nurses, and dietitians, your partner will get the care they need to recover. You can drive them to and from their appointments - or even stay every once in a while to see their progress - but try to allow your partner to take control of their own recovery during these appointments
Remember - take it slow, but not too slow. Your partner's heart needs some time, but eventually, it's important for everyone that things go back to normal.
2. Join them in the recovery process when you can.
Donna Taylor, MSN, RN,
Nurse Navigator Manager
Life after a heart attack is about more than just taking the occasional walk and making sure any incisions are clean. "Your partner's lifestyle may have played a role in their condition, and it's important to make some lifestyle changes so they don't end up back in the hospital. That means quitting smoking, getting exercise, and eating a heart healthy diet. Regular cardiovascular exercise is just as important as the medications they take in preventing future cardiac events," says Donna Taylor, MSN, RN, nurse navigator manager at Chester County Hospital.
Easy enough, right? Depending on your partner's lifestyle before the heart attack, these changes can be tough.
Some ways you can support your partner's heart-healthy lifestyle include:
- Letting other families know that smoking is no longer allowed
- Incorporating heart-healthy foods into your meals that taste good, such as a new chicken recipe or having soup and salad for lunch
- Keeping unhealthy foods out of the cabinets, such as processed foods like chips, cookies, candy, and sugary cereals
These lifestyle choices are essential for their recovery and continued wellbeing, but remember that they benefit you, too. Prioritizing a healthy lifestyle will keep both of your hearts as healthy as possible.
3. Rally support from others.
Recovery takes time. It's normal to become stressed out and even frustrated with the extra burdens placed on you. That's where you can outsource certain tasks to reliable loved ones, especially adult children, neighbors, and other friends who want to know how they can support you.
Start a regular rotation of loved ones to help with:
- Driving your partner to and from appointments
- Grocery shopping and other errands
- Helping your partner stay on top of medications
- Cleaning, caring for pets, and other household duties
However, remember that your partner isn't helpless - and they'll actually benefit from physical activity to regain independence. It's okay to ask them to take on some small things like folding the laundry or warming up dinner.
4. Help them recover emotionally.
"When it comes to their emotional wellbeing, it's normal for your partner to go through a lot of emotions after a heart attack, such as depression, anger, and fear that it's going to happen again. This is common, especially for about 2 to 6 weeks after their heart attack," says Taylor.
Over time, this will pass. In the meantime, let your partner know you are there for them by listening to their concerns and acknowledging their feelings.
However, if your partner's emotions begin to interfere with their sleeping, eating, or self-esteem, don't be afraid to ask for help. It'll be easier for your partner to recover with the help of everyone they trust, including physicians, family members, and close friends.
5. Take some time to yourself.
It makes sense if you make your partner's recovery from their heart attack a priority for a little while. However, take some time for yourself. If you become too stressed, you may end up putting extra stress back on your partner - which can increase their risk for another heart attack.
Stress also affects your health. It can lead to fatigue, an inability to concentrate, and irritability - and it can even affect your own heart health. If you're not well, you won't be able to help anyone else.
Some ways you can prioritize your own wellbeing as your partner recovers include:
- Taking me-time, which could be going to a movie, having some alone time, or going to lunch with a friend
- Paying attention to what stresses you out and learn how to calm yourself down when that stress trigger occurs
- Finding healthy ways to manage your stress, such as meditation, exercise, or talking things over with a friend
- Get enough sleep
- Making sure you have your own life, such as visits with friends or a hobby
Don't forget - you're not in this alone. Ask for help from a family member or close friend when you need a break. That way, you can come back to your partner refreshed and ready to support them.
Recovery Isn't Easy - but It Isn't Impossible
While a heart attack is a very serious and life-threatening event, recovery can be manageable, especially if you have a plan and use the support you have available. Once your partner is home and recovering, help them, but help yourself, too - both physically and mentally
If you have questions about caring for a loved one after a heart attack, contact your health care provider for additional resources and support. You can also contact the Penn Heart and Vascular Center at Chester County Hospital for more information by calling 800-789-PENN.
Related Information from Chester County Hospital: