If your friend or family member has just been diagnosed with heart disease, given some bad news about her condition, or is recovering from a heart attack or major surgery, she will need special emotional nurturing as well. This includes:
Support. Chances are she will need to make significant changes in her lifestyle, diet, and exercise. Encourage, participate in, and praise these changes, however small. And don't hassle or scold her if she falls into old behavior patterns. Change is always difficult and takes time. She will change when she is ready and at a pace that is comfortable for her.
Sympathy. Show her understanding and compassion for how difficult and painful it can be to live with heart disease. Tell her that you know from your own experience how hard it is to make behavior changes.Warmth. Be open and available to her conversation and silences alike. Hugs are always appreciated, but ask first if she wants one.
Empathy. Try to walk a mile in her shoes to understand her mood swings, tears, and confusion. Educate yourself about heart disease and consult our website for in-depth information about heart disease and treatment options. Read some of the books about women and heart disease available on our online store.
She'll most appreciate little remembrances that show you are thinking of her. Send her a funny card or flowers. Drop off some fresh fruit or teas. Call and ask if she'd like to go out to lunch or take a walk.
Attention. Listen to what she is saying and to any underlying emotions -- guilt, sadness, fear, or remorse. Give her feedback to let her know that you are paying attention both to what she is saying and how she is behaving.
Show concern for her recovery. Ask her how she's feeling, about her cholesterol and blood pressure levels, her latest doctor's appointment, and the medicines she's taking. Mention any heart disease-related news items that you come across in newspapers or magazines.
Just as she may struggle to accept the reality of her heart disease, she needs to be told that you accept her just as she is and will not judge, ridicule, blame, or scorn her past or present behavior.
Let her have her own feelings and experiences concerning her heart disease, and allow her to recover in a manner and a pace that are most comfortable for her. Applaud her growing ability to nurture and care for herself.
Encouragement. As she progresses towards changing her lifestyle, she will appreciate encouragement and recognition of her achievements. Life becomes definitively "one day at a time" after a trauma such as a heart attack or major surgery. Being able to cut down on eating fried foods, or walking a little more each day can be important steps towards improvement.