Role of a heart failure carer
Caring for someone with heart failure can be both demanding and rewarding. Being a carer can mean different things at different times. You may be a friend, a confidant, a nurse, and a personal assistant. It all depends on what your loved one’s needs are.
Every situation is different, but you should try to empower your partner or loved one by giving them freedom to do things on their own. Here are some tips that we hope can help heart failure carers:
- The most important thing you can do for your loved one is to take care of yourself. There may be times when caring for someone with heart failure wears you out and it may affect your finances, work, or relationships. When these things are proving challenging, go and talk with someone else – a doctor, a member of the family, a friend, or a support group can all help. Remember that it is important for you to continue with your own hobbies, being a carer does not define you. Take a step back every now and then and make sure you take time for you
- Learn all you can about heart failure. The more you know, the more helpful you can be to the person you care for. Start here with an overview of heart failure
- Keep an eye on symptoms – you may be in the best position to notice any changing symptoms in your loved one. Make sure to raise any of these symptom changes with a doctor1:
- Increased shortness of breath
- Increased swelling of the legs or ankles
- Significant weight gain over a couple of days
- A dry, hacking cough
- Increased levels of tiredness
- Give practical support – go with your loved one on visits to the doctor and get involved in these appointments. Your insight is important too!
- Give emotional support – be there for them when they need someone to talk to and be positive with a ‘can-do’ attitude. Help your loved one adapt to their illness and take control of it; they will be happier and have a better quality of life
- Find out if you are entitled to any benefits as a carer. Look into time off from work or financial assistance, such as a carer’s allowance
- Look out for local carer groups. These may be specifically for heart failure or more general. They can be a really great way to get support and discuss any worries you might have with people that are going through similar situations. Carer groups can give you a different perspective on things and you can offer, as well as learn, tips from other carers. Your local doctor should know of nearby groups, there may also be information in your local area on online.
Providing care from a distance
It isn’t always possible to live close to a loved one with heart failure. But it is important to not feel guilty, there are plenty of things you can do the help care from afar:
- Have a routine for staying in touch – find a time of day for regular phone calls or video chats
- Have a plan in place for problems – make sure the person you care for knows exactly what to do if unexpected problems arise
- Know how to contact the doctor – keep the name and contact details of your loved one’s doctor at hand
- Ask for help – if you’re worried, ask someone local, such as a neighbor, to check in