Each February we celebrate American Heart Month!
A celebration? You are probably wondering why that should be a celebration. Well…
Increasing awareness about heart disease, stroke and hypertension prevention is essential and a key part of the national campaign surrounding the celebration. How to take steps to alter your lifestyle to prevent heart disease is only one piece of the puzzle.
For many of our senior loved ones, the diagnosis is already made and prevention has passed them by — especially senior women.
Heart disease is responsible for 1 of every 4 deaths in the United States, making it the leading cause of death in our nation.
It is time to learn all we can and work towards a healthy lifestyle! Let’s talk about how we move forward to help our seniors (and maybe ourselves as caregivers) learn to deal with the diagnosis.
What to Do Loved Ones Have Heart Disease
Dealing with a diagnosis of heart disease takes a multi-pronged approach. What happens after the doctor tells your senior his heart is damaged or she has high blood pressure or clogged arteries that require surgery now?
Any medical problem comes with an emotional impact for the person being diagnosed and our seniors are no different. Naturally their diagnosis will affect you and the family members too.
- Be sure you fully understand the prognosis and all the options for treatment while you are with the doctor. Takes notes and ask questions. Ask where you can look for even more information if you need it and they are out of time. Your senior’s doctor will be happy you are informed and want to adhere to the plan of care. Be ready to inform the doctor at each visit any symptoms, questions about medications and self-monitoring results. Keep a list of questions to ask them each visit so you can be successfully managing the disease with your senior.
- Once you are aware of the disease and following a treatment plan get help from a support group to interact with others who are in the same situation. Support forums are good places to realize you are not alone and that there are ways to cope with the illness.
- Help your senior be aware of the potential symptoms that could lead to trouble and how they should react. Do they need to take a specific medication, call the doctor’s office or call an ambulance?
- Learn about the medications senior loved ones are prescribed. What time do they take these medications, what foods to avoid with heart medications, how much should be taken, what precautions should be followed, when does the prescription need to be refilled, when do they return to the doctor for a checkup and medication adjustment, and be sure they are following the directions correctly, even if you have to look in the medicine cabinet!
- Let’s all get physical! Once their doctor has cleared your senior for activity, it is time to help them keep active. There are a wide variety of physical activities that can and should be done to stay healthy. Consider tai chi, yoga, walking, swimming, water aerobics or dancing. Find an activity that you can enjoy with your senior so you can help keep them off the couch! Having a buddy to stay active with regularly will not only help medically but mentally and spiritually as well.
- Be sure they eat right. Changing certain habits about the foods seniors choose to eat can help improve their health, especially with heart disease. Eating more fresh fruits and vegetables, lean protein, and whole grains while cutting down on salt and eliminating fried foods is important for heart health. There are changes your senior can make in each meal to improve their diet. Eating different foods can be hard for seniors who have fallen into a habit of eating small amounts of favorite foods which could be hurting their health, but role modeling or cooking new items and sharing your concern for their well-being will show them how serious diet changes should be. When your senior is following a heart healthy diet, cheating every once in a while is OK. Don’t let cheating become routine, though, or their heart will suffer.
- Keep your senior on the happy side of life! You can help prevent depression through enjoyment, smiling, laughing and telling jokes. Find the funny in life! Visiting with others, either in person or through social networking via Facebook or Skype, is a great way to stimulate engagement and push the blues out the door! Watch a comedy movie or TV program. Play with the grandkids or great-grandkids! Watch the birds in the yard, walk the dog, feed bread to the ducks, or play some video games. Any and every activity they enjoy help their heart!
- Everyone should learn CPR and know the warning signs of stroke. Being ready to react if an emergency occurs will lead to a better outcome!
- Has your senior quit smoking yet?
Help Seniors Avoid Being a Statistic
Heart disease is the number one killer of women in the U.S. and 43 million women have been diagnosed with heart disease. The numbers are nothing short of staggering, aren’t they?
It is important to help your senior follow the advice of their doctor with regard to medications, diet, self-monitoring, activity and attitude. Let them know they’re not alone — that you’re there to help. They need your support as family caregiver to live a full life after their diagnosis.
We all want life in our years and having heart disease shouldn’t put an end to living!