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Being a carer for a heart attack patient
heartfoundation.org.au|Helpline 13 11 12

Being a carer for a heart attack patient

Your role as a carer for a heart attack patient is an important one – explore some useful things to know.

Key takeaways

  • Heart attacks can happen suddenly, and can be a huge shock for everybody. 
  • Both the patient and the carer need support. 
  • There are many simple strategies for care and self-care. 

 

3 min read
Heart attacks can happen suddenly, and this can be a huge shock for friends and family. Becoming a carer can also be daunting, especially if you haven’t been in that role before.  

You can support your loved one by: 
 
  • Finding out the steps for recovery 
  • Going to appointments 
  • Supporting them during cardiac rehabilitation. 
It’s also important to take care of yourself. 

Recovery  

The person you’re caring for will need a lot of support. Before they leave hospital, make sure you understand what they need and how to help them. Their healthcare team will be able to advise you on their needs and the support that’s available. 

It’s also important to get information on helping the person to live a healthy lifestyle. This will reduce their risk of further problems. You can also educate yourself on heart attack symptoms, so you know what to look out for if it happens again. 

Emotional support  

Recovering from a heart attack can be a very emotional experience for both the patient and the people around them. Talk to them about how they’re feeling and how they’re coping. Some people find it hard to talk about their condition. If they’re uncomfortable talking with you, you could encourage them to attend counselling, support groups or other services that the doctor or hospital may offer. 

Learn more about managing emotions after a heart attack. 

Be aware of your emotions too. It’s normal to have feelings of anger, frustration and sadness along with positive feelings, such as love, pride and gratitude. There’s help for you, too. Connecting with other heart patients and carers can really help. 

Being a carer  

Being a carer can be challenging physically and emotionally. To avoid burn out, you need to look after yourself and accept help when you can. 

Most carers have other responsibilities at home, at work or both. Getting the balance right can be hard. It’s easy for your caring role to take over and for other things to get neglected. Making plans and setting goals can be a good way to keep things under control. 

Looking after yourself 

Part of looking after yourself is taking breaks. It’s good for your own wellbeing and will help you give better care. Try and find someone to share the caring with. This will be good for you both.  

Keep doing the activities you enjoy, and make your health a priority. Focus on ways to reduce your stress. Mindfulness, relaxation and breathing exercises are very helpful. If you start to feel anxious or depressed, talk to a friend, a family member, a doctor or counsellor. There’s help out there for you, too.  

When you next see your GP, tell them that you’re a carer so they can keep an eye on your health, and if you’re working, let your employer know too. 

Support services 

Needing help doesn’t mean you’re not coping. Caring for someone is a huge task and a bit of extra support can make a big difference. If you are unable to get help from friends and family, there are other resources, such as the Carer Gateway, Commonwealth Respite and Carelink Centres. 

It’s also a good idea to check that the person you’re caring for is getting all the financial support they’re entitled to. They can check to see if they’re eligible for benefits at Centrelink. 

Helping a friend 

When a friend or colleague has a heart attack, there’s a lot you can do to support them. 

You can:
 
  • Try to understand how they’re feeling. They may be shocked, worried, overwhelmed, depressed or anxious. By understanding their emotions, you can offer support. 
  • Listen. Your friend may want to talk about their heart attack. Listen to their concerns, but don’t rush to give advice, even if it’s tempting. 
  • Educate yourself. They may feel overwhelmed by all the information they’re getting. Help them research their condition and treatment options, and help them put a list of questions together. 
  • Work on a recovery plan. 
  • Socialise. It’s easy to isolate yourself after a health scare. Set up a regular outing or event. Being around people who care really helps. Support groups are good for this too. 
  • Get active together. Exercise is a big part of recovery, and is a mood booster too. You could join a Heart Foundation Walking group. 
 

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