Heart disease can manifest at any age and in different forms—ischemic or coronary heart disease, valvular heart disease, cardiomyopathy, congenital heart disease, etc.
Coronary artery disease (CAD), in which one develops blocks in the coronary arteries leading to heart attacks, is the most common heart ailment after the age of 50 years.
So if you have a parent with heart disease, they are more likely to be having CAD—either stable CAD, or post-heart attack, or post-intervention (angioplasty or bypass surgery) or heart failure.
Due to tremendous advances in cardiac treatment, more and more people are surviving and living longer with heart disease. This has led to an increasing number of adult children being involved in the health care of their parents.
Taking care of an ailing parent is always a challenge, more so when they are suffering from heart disease. Here are eight tips to take care of a parent who has heart disease:
1. Talk it out
At the outset, it is best to have a chat with your parents regarding the financial aspects of their medical treatment—either medical insurance, their own savings or your financial support.
You need to reassure them about finances not being a problem in case of their treatment. This is because very often parents avoid undergoing essential heart-related treatment as they feel that they will be a financial burden on their children.
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2. Divide your responsibilities
If you have siblings, it would be useful to determine and discuss how you would divide your responsibilities in terms of finances, time, etc.
3. Familiarise yourself with the ailment
Try to familiarize yourself with the ailment that they are suffering from—the disease process, its manifestations, the outcomes, the prognosis and the various treatment options—either from your doctor or from a dependable source on the internet.
This is especially useful as medicine continues to move towards a shared decision-making model, in which the doctor and the patient discuss and decide together the most appropriate treatment option based on best clinical practices and patient preferences.
4. Give them your time and presence
Accompany them on their periodic visits to the doctor. It will not only reassure them but sometimes they may not reveal to you all that the doctor has said, for fear of burdening or stressing you. Ensure that they are regular with their visits to the doctor.
Additionally, you can help them in the filing of all their reports. It would not be a bad idea for you to have a copy of them with you.
5. Don’t be afraid to compromise a bit
Your parent may be asked to make significant lifestyle and dietary changes. Support them and if possible join them in diet changes and physical activity.
6. Keep an eye on their medicine schedule
Ensure that they are taking their medicines regularly as advised, as medication adherence is crucial to prevent any further cardiac events. You could do a pill-count periodically as it is not uncommon for parents to not take their medicines as prescribed, either deliberately or due to memory impairment.
7. You could also hire a house-help
In case of being bedridden or having a debilitating illness, it may be useful to have some kind of a support system in the form of a nurse or a house-help to look after your parent.
8. Be attentive
Watch for any symptoms or signs of worsening heart condition like the aggravation of chest pain, breathlessness, fatigue, swelling of feet. Prompt medical attention could prevent hospitalization or adverse cardiac events.
All in all, try to take care of them in the same way as you would take care of your child. Ensure physical, emotional and financial support to your parents as they navigate their way through their heart ailment.