As a friend or family member, you are an important part of each woman's support and recovery, and a valued member of our community. It is vital that you take care of yourself while you care for your friend or family member with heart disease. Use these tips and resources to help you develop your own self-care plan.
Take care of yourself. Caregivers are prone to burnout, stress, and clinical depression. Monitor your mental and emotional health and watch out for days or weeks of prolonged sadness, anger, resentment, sleeplessness, alcohol or drug abuse, and anxiety. See a therapist if need be. Also, make sure you get enough "down time" to be with your friends and enjoy your hobbies. Call on relatives and friends to relieve you or, if you can afford it, hire someone to come in several mornings or afternoons a week. Don't be a martyr. If you don't take good care of yourself, you won't be able to take care of anyone else.
Keep your perspective. Don't become overly responsible for her health and recovery, or bug her to eat better or get more exercise. This is something she will need to do on her own schedule and no amount of nagging from you will make it any easier for her. Encourage her, yes, but keep a healthy distance between yourself and her disease. Urge her to join WomenHeart where she will find many women just like herself. Also, check out available WomenHeart Support Networks or support groups at cardiac rehabilitation programs at your local hospitals. However, if you believe she is suffering from clinical depression, which is very common among women with heart disease, and unable to take good care of herself, talk with her and her doctor about it. Treatment is available!
Your role is the most difficult, as no healthcare professional is specifically assigned to your well being. It will help you get through the tough times if you can reach out for help and connect with people who are going through similar experiences. Contact Heartmates
, which provides information and support for "cardiac spouse, friend, or family members." (It is very much geared toward wives of men with heart disease but an increasing number of husbands of women with heart disease are involved). Heartmates also publishes a very helpful book, Heartmates: A Guide for the Spouse and Family of the Heart Patient
Learn CPR and how to use an AED. Call your local fire and rescue department, local American Heart Association, or Red Cross chapter for a schedule of classes.
Read. Visit our online store where you can order books about heart disease in women.
Join us. Become a MEMBER of WomenHeart and make a donation to support our work. You may also make donations to WomenHeart In Honor of or In Memory of a loved one.
Additional Resource: Family Caregiver Alliance
offers programs at national, state and local levels to support and sustain caregivers.