Caring for someone who’s had a heart attack
Many people feel shocked and frightened when their partner, relative or friend has a heart attack.
Heart attacks happen suddenly. It can be very daunting to discover that someone close has had a heart attack, and that you are going to have to care for them.
Before the person you’re caring for is discharged from hospital, make sure you understand what they will need, what you will have to do to help them, and the support you can get. Talk to the doctor, cardiologist or nurse, to find out as much as you can.
- Get information on how to help the person develop a healthy lifestyle, to try and reduce their risk of more heart problems.
- Be aware of heart attack symptoms.
Talk with the person about how they’re feeling and how they think they’re coping. Be flexible and aware of their needs. Some people may find it difficult to talk about their condition.
Encourage them to accept the help offered in hospital and later – from their doctor, support groups, counselling, cardiac rehabilitation team.
Learn more about managing emotions after a heart attack.
Are you caring for someone?
Call 13 11 12 and talk to one of our qualified heart health professionals. If you need an interpreter, call 131 450 and ask for the Heart Foundation.
Managing life as a carer
Caring can be physically and mentally exhausting. Looking after yourself and accepting help is the best way to give the best care you can.
Balancing the pressures of your caring role with the rest of your home and work life can be stressful.
It’s easy for caring to become your main focus, and that may cause other parts of your life to be neglected. Carers have their own needs and other commitments like children, work and relationships. Try not to let the person’s condition take centre stage all the time.
You don’t need to solve everything at once. Setting realistic goals can make things clearer, and make it easier to plan ahead.
Looking after yourself
Try to make time for yourself. Regular breaks from caring are vital for your wellbeing and quality of life. That way you can offer the best care possible.
- Keep doing the things you enjoy, like hobbies and social activities.
- Share the caring with someone else.
Make your health a priority
Find ways to manage stress that work for you. You could try mindfulness, relaxation or breathing exercises. If you are feeling down or depressed, talk to someone about it. It could be a friend or family member, or a professional like your GP or a counsellor.
Tell your GP about your caring role, because it’s important to look after your health too.
If you need help, call Beyondblue on 1300 22 46 36. Beyondblue is an independent, not-for- profit organisation working to increase awareness and understanding of depression and anxiety in Australia and to reduce the associated stigma.
There are many supports and services to help you when you’re caring for someone who has had a heart attack.
Caring can have emotional effects on you. It’s normal for carers to feel many difficult emotions such as anger, resentment, frustration, guilt and sadness. There are of course positive feelings too – love and pride, along with gratitude that the person survived the heart attack.
There can also be worries about finances and other stresses. You’re not on your own. Others understand what you are going through. Getting the chance to talk about your own experience with other heart patients and their carers can help a lot.
Ways to get support
- Attend cardiac rehab with the person you are caring for. This is a great way you can support them, and at the same time learn about ways you can provide support.
- A General Practitioner can provide advice and answer questions.
- Get a benefit check to make sure you and the person you’re caring for is getting all the financial support that they are entitled to.
Discover more ways to managing your caring responsibilities on the Carer’s Australia website.
Helping a friend or colleague who has had a heart attack
When a friend or colleague has a heart attack, there’s a lot you can do to support them.
After a heart attack a person often feels a variety of concerns and emotions.
They may feel:
- shocked about what happened
- worried about returning to normal activities like work, driving or sex
- overwhelmed by lifestyle changes they need to make
- depressed and isolated
- anxious about having another heart attack
- concerned about relationships with their family
- reluctant to access help.
These are all normal reactions after a heart attack. By being aware of what they are experiencing and offering your support, you can help them to feel better.
Things you can do
One of the best things you can do is listen if when your friend wants to talk about their heart attack. It may be tempting to tell them all the ways to get healthier or exercise more often. But try to focus instead on hearing their concerns before rushing to give advice.
Chances are your friend is going to the doctor quite a bit. They may feel overwhelmed by the barrage of information given to them. Help them research online about their condition and treatment options. Work together to gain more understanding of what they are going through. Your willingness to help will go a long way.
Discover ways you they can get back to normal life.
Having a heart attack may cause depression. When a person gets bad health news, they sometimes shut themselves off from activities they once enjoyed. If this is happening for your friend, set up a regular social outing for the two of you or a group. It could be a coffee catch-up, movie night or going for a walk. Being around people who care about them can help your friend to feel better emotionally. Recommending a support group can also help.
Learn more about heart attacks and emotional health.
Make time to do some activity together. Based on their likes and capabilities, you could go for a regular walk, or take a dance or fitness class. The physical activity will help your friend’s heart health, and it may also improve their mood and well-being.
Encourage them to join a Heart Foundation Walking group.
Heart Foundation Helpline
We are here to answer your questions. Call 13 11 12 and talk to one of our qualified heart health professionals. If you need an interpreter, call 131 450 and ask for the Heart Foundation.