Caregivers play an important role in the well-being of chronic heart failure patients. In addition to helping their loved one manage the physical and medical aspects of heart failure, they are called on to help with the patient’s emotional health.
According to Ann Laramee, APRN, Cardiology Nurse Practitioner in Cardiology and Palliative Medicine at the University of Vermont Medical Center, the heart is very sensitive to mood stressors like anxiety, fear, loneliness, anger and depression. She says that mood changes in heart failure patients can result in reduced compliance with treatment plans, longer recovery times and an increased risk of additional cardiac events.
Caregiving: A Burden or a Blessing?
Studies have shown that improved social support has been associated with better outcomes for patients living with heart failure. But often, caregivers themselves suffer from physical and emotional symptoms, according to Laramee, who notes that most caregivers of heart failure patients serve in that role for an average of 50 hours a week over 53 months.
“At the same time, caregiving can be very gratifying,” she says. “People say it brings fulfillment and meaning to their life. They feel appreciated.”
She encourages caregivers to take care of themselves so that they can be there for their loved one. She recommends many of the same self-care tips as she does to patients, including getting enough sleep, exercising regularly, eating a well-balanced diet and asking for support when needed.
Webinar for Caregivers
Additional insights from Laramee are available in a free webinar “Moods in HF and Caregiver Challenges” from the Heart Failure Society of America that’s perfect for caregivers, patients and families alike.
In the webinar, Laramee reviews the various moods that may affect a heart failure patient, how to recognize mood changes, when to seek help and the treatment options available. She also addresses the important role a caregiver plays, the challenges and rewards of caregiving, the importance of self-care and finding support when needed.
The HFSA Patient Education Webinar Series is provided to patients, caregivers and families through a collaboration between the Heart Failure Society of America and Mended Hearts. The series covers topics including heart failure diagnosis, therapies, clinical trials and diet and therapy advice. For more information, please visit www.hfsa.org/patient/webinarseries.