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Practical Insights for Busy Caregivers

Learning to Live with Heart Failure

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February 16, 2016, by Hannele Kivinen, Caregiver Exchange

heart in hands Caregivers of people with heart failure are often exhausted and overwhelmed because of the condition’s complexity and unpredictability. That’s one of the observations of a recent report released by the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, entitled The Burden of Heart Failure. It takes a hard look at the growing epidemic of heart failure.
 
Heart failure occurs when the heart has become damaged (for any number of reasons) and is unable to pump blood effectively. There are an estimated 600,000 Canadians living with the effects of heart failure. That number doesn’t include the many family caregivers whose lives are also impacted.
 
Sue MacDonald was one of those caregivers. She looked after her father before he passed away at the age of 76 from heart failure and other issues. She’s quoted in the Foundation’s report.
 
“It was a hard job taking care of my dad — the sheer number of appointments and trying to coordinate care. There were different systems and different specialists. He fell a lot before he went into extended care and there were lots of ambulance calls.”
 
People with heart failure often have other health problems that further complicate the caregiving role.
 
The report stresses the value of easy-to-find information on how to live with heart failure and slow its progression. If people with heart failure can more effectively manage their condition, it follows that this will ease some of the pressure on their caregivers.
 
Although heart failure is currently an incurable chronic condition, many people with heart failure go on to live active, fulfilling lives through a combination of self-management, proper medical treatment, and healthy decision-making.
 
The Foundation has adapted heart failure education resources from Cardiac Services BC and BC’s Heart Failure Network. Available online as printable documents, they allow caregivers to help the person they’re looking after manage their heart failure. They cover topics like Understanding Heart Failure – The Basics and Heart Failure Zones. They include forms for tracking medications and their side effects, as well as changes in breathing pattern, weight, swelling, and fatigue. There’s also space for recording actions taken and results experienced.
 
The Foundation’s website has additional self-management resources, including documents in French. Sue MacDonald’s full caregiving story is posted on their blog. Click here to read.
 
February is Canadian Heart Month.