Caregiver – Getting Prepared

By Donna Selkow, Caregiver

It is hard to determine who is most affected by the diagnosis of heart disease. The patient would quickly respond to such a question with the following answer: "Me, sob. I'm the sick one. Baby me." Ladies, we all know we have been babying them for years and they still managed to not follow our advice and now look at the jackpot it has landed them in. And what is our reward for this – "Baby me."

As a rule men are vain, uncaring and silly. Men will not go to a doctor until they are very sick. When they do finally go to a doctor, anything that might have been simple to treat is now hard to treat. This is the way it is and where you are probably finding yourself right now. If your loved one has just been diagnosed with heart disease this short feature will start to help you get prepared. However, you have much to learn and you will learn everything you need to know about taking care of a heart patient in The Simplified Handbook for Living With Heart Disease and Other Chronic Diseases.

You are now a member of a large population of families that must live with coronary disease. The American Heart Association estimates there are more than fifty million people with heart disease. Almost every one of those fifty million patients has a caregiver. Welcome to the family. Remember this, when you most feel like beating your head against a wall others have felt the same way. I know there is not much reassurance in this. It is the way it is.

Your patient is someone you love. It is very hard to watch the one you love suffer. If your patient is afraid, you will be afraid. If your patient is angry, you will be angry. You will be a mirror of the patients’ emotions. Now for the really hard part - you may not reflect those emotions. Your reflecting those emotions will only make matters worse. Above all, you may not demonstrate that you are afraid.

Hold the patients hand.

Caregiving and life style changes begin the moment after diagnosis.

First Things First for Caregiving

Here is the total list of everything you need to do to get ready for taking care of a heart disease patient:

  1. Accept your lives have changed
  2. Get educated about the disease and specifically the patients’ unique demonstration of the disease (every patient is different)
  3. Get ready to kick you patients butt to make him comply with all the new rules
  4. Adopt most of the rules to your life as well
  5. Get educated about all the phases of treatment including diet, exercise and medications.

When open-heart surgery is required

There are many other features on the web site about needing and getting through open-heart surgery. Read those. Here is the short list of what you, as a caregiver, need to know:

  1. Open-heart surgery hurts, worse than childbirth and certainly the pain lasts much longer
  2. Your patient is going to be very stressed, depressed, angry and anxious.
  3. Your patient is going to need lots of TLC
  4. Your patient is going to live
  5. Your patient will find a lot of ways to make your life miserable if you allow it

The hardest part of dealing with the news about the requirement for open-heart surgery is the roller coaster of emotions that ensue. The worst one is, of course, fear. Read the feature “And the Bad News Is”. Just click on it.


I don’t know who will be more irritable through all this, you or the patient. You might feel you have earned the right to be angry with your patient and therefore you have the right to be irritable. Good for you. Get over it. The anger and irritability will interfere with your ability to help your patient and worse, will make you sick.

You must take care of yourself if you want to take care of your patient. You may not allow the patients’ stupidity to affect you. Take it for granted your patient will have a tendency to not be completely cooperative and might even be nasty. “The Simplified Handbook” will tell you how to deal with all the typical behaviors of a heart patient.

Short list about irritability:

  1. It makes everyone angry
  2. It makes you sick
  3. It makes everyone uncooperative
  4. It is completely unnecessary
  5. It is completely counterproductive
  6. It may be unavoidable

Post Operative Care of Open-heart Surgery

Post op care of an open-heart surgery patient is usually about six weeks of fairly intensive care. This is how long it takes for the sternum (chest bone) to heal. This period is fraught with pain. Pain will cause the patient to be depressed, stressed, anxious, unhappy, angry and a general pain in the behind.

After that first six-week period, it usually takes another six weeks of more passive care as the patient assumes more and more of the responsibility of the maintenance of the coronary disease. Most patients may resume a more normal life after three months however some may take as long as six months to heal. It all depends on the nature and severity of the illness.

You have to be prepared for your patient coming home from the hospital. Here is the short list:

  1. Get the house very clean
  2. Get the house prepared for the patients physical limitations
  3. Stock up on the food the patient will require (a new diet is going to be in order)
  4. Your patient will be cold. Have warm clothes and bed clothes on the ready
  5. Get educated

Once past the healing phases, there is a whole future lifetime of care that is required. Where can you learn about all those years ahead and what you will have to help your patient do? Right. The Simplified Handbook for Living With Heart Disease and Other Chronic Diseases.

The Simplified Handbook for
Living with Heart Disease
and Other Chronic Diseases

This comprehensive, doctor reviewed and approved book explains heart disease from a patient’s perspective. Without complicated medical mumbo-jumbo, this blunt and hilarious book is a total lifesaver.