Caring for a loved one
Looking after someone you love who has serious health problems is demanding and often stressful, especially if they’re living with a chronic (long-term) disease.
Based on one estimate, family members provide 90% of the care for patients getting care for chronic illness in the United States
More than one-third of family caregivers care for a parent—averaging 20 hours a week
But whatever your relationship, if you’re reading this, you can help your loved one manage better and live better with HF.
You’ll find helpful information about HF throughout this website, from the facts about HF to recommended changes in diet and activity. If you’re caring for someone with HF, this section is just for you.
First, you need to accept your new role of caregiver. It’s quite a job to take on, and a long-term commitment. Seeing yourself in this new light will allow you to plan ahead and reach out for help—and control the stress and emotion that might otherwise get in the way.
One report found patients with a spouse were more likely to take their medicines as prescribed and take them on time. So never doubt that you can make a difference.
The first challenge after HF is diagnosed is to familiarize yourself with common HF symptoms. Review these symptoms. If you suspect a worsening of HF, insist on going to the doctor. HF can’t be cured, but it can be treated, and symptoms can improve. A patient with HF needs to be under a doctor's care.
Discuss this and other treatment options with the doctor.
It’s important that your loved one sees their doctor at their regularly scheduled follow-up appointments. Help them keep track of all their appointments and accompany them if you can.
Don’t rely on your loved one to cover everything in the doctor’s office. They may be stressed out or simply forget. Write down ahead of time the points you want to make and the questions you need to ask. Here’s a guide to help remind you what to ask.
Your loved one may already need your support with everyday activities. On top of that, an HF diagnosis generally calls for life changes to help manage the condition, including: taking medicines, changing diet, and following an activity plan—all exactly as the doctor recommends.
Keep a close watch on the signs and symptoms. You can’t rely on your loved one to tell you when they’re feeling worse—they may hesitate to trouble you. And you can’t risk a wait-and-see approach. If you notice any new HF symptoms, or existing symptoms grow worse, contact the doctor right away.
At the same time, don’t overlook the stress, anxiety, and depression that may go with HF. People with HF may have an emotional reaction. You’ll want to be there for your loved one. And seek help if you see them wrestling with negative feelings.
When a patient is discharged after being in the hospital with HF, your role as caregiver is especially important. There’s research to show that having the support of a circle of family and friends can help people with HF stay out of the hospital longer and help them keep taking their medicine as prescribed.
Many caregivers live in the same house, or down the street. But what if you don’t? It may put a different kind of strain on you. You may not be able to look in every day—let alone several times a day. But there’s still plenty you can do.
Family and friends will all want to know about HF—as well as you and the patient. Take charge of putting together the information and resources that can answer everyone’s questions and concerns.
Build a reliable care team for your loved one with HF: you, family, friends, and paid care staff. Assign responsibilities based on individuals’ experience, skills, and location. You may need to find health care professionals or support groups.